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.

Alpinestars Supertech Gloves Throw Down the Gauntlet

11/04/2016 @ 2:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

alpinestars-supertech-gloves

We don’t cover a lot of gear, here on Asphalt & Rubber, mostly because I don’t want to inundate you with a bunch of superfluous content that’s not relevant to our readers. But, we do aim to bring you new and notable pieces that you should be aware of, even if you’re not in the market for new boots, gloves, helmets, etc.

One such item is the new Alpinestars Supertech glove, which is an all-new item for the 2017 season. The Supertech glove is a big deal in Alpinestars land, as it will be the Italian brand’s top-of-the-line racing glove going forward, supplanting the GP Tech glove, which was last updated three years ago.

While the GP Tech will remain in the Alpinestars lineup, the Supertech definitely has some big expectations to meet, as the GP Tech has long been a gold-standard item in the motorcycle industry, not to mention a popular purchase with track-focused riders.

To meet those expectations, Alpinestars spent a whole year proving the Supertech glove in the MotoGP paddock, and we can tell you that it was time well-spent, as the Supertech packs some industry-leading features, as well as superior comfort and tactile feedback.

Continue Reading

MotoGP Rules Updated Again – More Restrictions on Aerodynamics, Airbags Suits Now Compulsory, & More

10/18/2016 @ 10:46 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

twin-ring-motegi-2016-ducati-andrea-dovizioso

The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning.

Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.

The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season.

The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.

The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.

Continue Reading

Video: Mind & Motor with Maverick Viñales

05/24/2016 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP-2016-Austin-Rnd-03-Tony-Goldsmith-1393

Forgive us as we play into Alpinestars’ marketing game, as the video we are about to show was made strictly to help sell more motorcycle leathers. But still, it is also a great insight into a MotoGP rider that has been hogging headlines recently, Maverick Viñales.

Tipped by many in the paddock as the next alien, Viñales was the major roadblock in this year’s MotoGP contract negotiations, as the young Spaniard had a difficult time choosing to leave the factory Suzuki MotoGP team for the factory Yamaha outfit.

Viñales even tells of his thought process for that decision in the video, which is remarkably candid of him to do, especially considering that the media is a sponsor’s marketing video.

Other items of note is how Maverick Viñales nearly found himself racing MX bikes, instead of GP bikes. He also talks about how he trains on the motocross track with his girlfriend, Kiara Fontanesi, who also happens to be a four-time Women’s Motocross World Champion.

Long story short, the video is well worth a watch. Check it out after the jump.

Continue Reading

Video: MotoGP’s Universal Sign Language

05/05/2016 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Friday-Aragon-Australian-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-1065

MotoGP is in Le Mans, France this weekend and if you watch the TV feed long enough, you will invariably see a candid moment where a rider is in the pit box, trying to explain a technical item with his team. In these moments it goes, almost without saying, that he will be doing most of the explaining with his hands.

There is something about the dynamic movements of a motorcycle at speed that defies mere words – gestures and sounds seem to be an integral process of getting one’s point across in a clear manner. It’s two-wheeled pantomime.

The folks at Alpinestars have picked up on this, and made a quick video with its sponsored riders in the MotoGP race class. What’s interesting to see is how many of the gestures at the same for explaining the same act. Call it Universal Rider Sign Language, perhaps?

Continue Reading

Alpinestars Tech-Air Race Coming the USA This Summer

03/07/2016 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Alpinestars-Tech-Air-Race-airbag-front

American riders will be pleased to hear that the Alpinestars Tech-Air Race airbag technology, which is a self-contained and self-actuated system, will finally be available in the USA, starting later this summer.

This means that the same technology that protects MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, and Dani Pedrosa will now available to the common two-wheeled enthusiast – thus a huge step forward for motorcycle safety.

Alpinestars says that when the Tech-Air Race is fully inflated, it protects that back (with an integrated back protector), kidneys, chest and shoulders. Additionally, with a firmware upgrade, the Race system can be configured to run the Tech-Air Street settings, for non-race use in both on-road and off-road situations.

Continue Reading

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 15 – Not Star Wars

02/06/2016 @ 7:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

We have a bevy of Two Enthusiasts podcast shows to get out to you, as we clear our backlog. First up is Episode 15, where we tackle a few news items that have been going on in the industry these past couple of weeks.

As such, Quentin and I talk a little bit about the Superprestigio, and finish up the nonsense with the Yamaha YZF-R1 recall. We also give some time to the Dainese/Alpinestars legal happenings, the sale of Miller Motorsports Park, and the changes to the World Superbike Championship.

What we definitely don’t talk about is the new Star Wars movie. Nope, not at all. Not even a little. Anyhoo…keep an eye out for a few more shows over the next few days.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Continue Reading

The Massive 2016 MotoGP Rule Update

01/08/2016 @ 2:14 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

Saturday-Misano-Grand-Prix-of-San-Marino-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-5624

With major changes to the technical regulations for MotoGP in 2016, it has taken some time for the FIM to produce a new and revised version of the rulebook.

The first provisional version was made available today, the new rules bringing together all of the new rules agreed over the past few years into a single set of regulations.

Most of the new rules have already been written about during the year, but putting them into a single rulebook helped clarify them greatly.

The biggest changes are to the technical regulations. The abolition of the Open class means everyone is back on a single set of rules. Or rather, nearly everyone.

There are still two types of manufacturers: manufacturers subject to the standard rules, and manufacturers who have not yet had sufficient success, and therefore have been granted a number of concessions.

Those concessions are more limited than the Open class, though, and relate now only to testing and to engine development. Everyone will have the same amount of fuel, the same tire allocation, and everyone will use the same electronics, the spec hardware and the unified software.

Though many fans are disappointed that there isn’t just a single set of rules, the concessions which remain are absolutely vital to the long-term health of the series.

With Honda, Yamaha, and since last year, Ducati, all subject to a freeze on engine development and limited testing, Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM, when they join the series in 2017) stand a chance of cutting the gap to the more successful factories.

Without concessions, the smaller factories wouldn’t stand a chance of catching the others, especially not a factory with almost limitless resources like Honda. Indeed, without the concessions granted to Ducati, there is a very good chance the Italian factory would have left MotoGP in 2014, after three long years without results.

The previous era, when the factories all competed under a single set of rules, ended up with just 17 bikes on the grid, and manufacturers showing more interest in leaving MotoGP than in joining. That situation has been completely reversed.

A more intriguing change has been the introduction of clear rules on the safety equipment to be used by riders. Back protectors and chest protectors are now compulsory, and minimum standards have been imposed for helmets, leathers, boots and gloves.

Rider safety equipment will now be much more closely regulated and monitored.

Continue Reading

Dainese Responds to Alpinestars Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/29/2015 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Dainese-D-Air-Race-airbag-suit

Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

Continue Reading

Alpinestars Issues Press Release Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/23/2015 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

alpinestars-tech-air

Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies.

The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. This corrects the information A&R received that at issue was the algorithm used to detect a crash.

The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.

This action resulted in some retailers pulling the product from their shelves, but Alpinestars says that no legal action has taken place in the German market, and that the company continues to offer the Tech-Air Street in Germany.

You can read Alpinestars full press release after the jump. Asphalt & Rubber will be sure to keep you apprised of further developments regarding this story, as it unfolds.

Continue Reading

Alpinestars & Dainese Head to Court Over Airbag Systems

12/17/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

alpinestars-dainese-lawsuit

Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

Continue Reading