Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

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.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Help Design Asphalt & Rubber’s New Logo

10/20/2013 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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It’s that time of year: the almost-end of a (thankfully) exciting and penalty-ridden MotoGP season, and soon we will be into motorcycling’s long winter hibernation: no weekend racing, little street riding, and hours spent in the garage, counting down the days until the start of the season in 2014.

Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we have found ourselves finally getting a chance to dust out the shelves, clean the office, and oh yeah…redesign our beloved logo. Inspired and humbled by the arrival of our five-year blogiversary, we decided to give the logo a nip and tuck, but we need your help.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Five Years Old Today

10/18/2013 @ 4:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

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Another year has gone by at our tiny motorcycle blog here, as Asphalt & Rubber turns five years old today. The thing is though, the site isn’t that tiny anymore — one million visitors will come to A&R in October alone.

In the past four years, when I have written these birthday posts, I write the same thing about how I look back on the past 365 days with a bit of astonishment, and then list all the great things that we have done in that time.

At the five-year mark though, I find myself looking all the way back to the beginning of A&R, a time when this site wasn’t really anything at all. With that retrospect, I see how Asphalt & Rubber has come into what it is now — if I had to go back, and try to decipher today from the fog of time, it would all feel like an impossible reality, if I am honest.

Why Asphalt & Rubber Supports Riders for Health

10/03/2013 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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You would have to be living in a hole not to have heard about the video footage of a Range Rover plowing through a group of motorcyclists, and the chase through New York that ensued afterwards.

I say this not because the video has been the highest trafficked article on Asphalt & Rubber this week so far, though it is; nor do I say this because the video has been posted to virtually every motorcycle forum and blog on the internet, though it has; but instead because the video has elevated itself out of our obscure sport and into the national, if not international, public consciousness.

It is rare that motorcycling finds its way into mass media, and unfortunately it is rarely a good thing when it does so. Motorcycling by and large has an image problem in the United States. Few motorists commute via motorcycle, which means our industry is filled with people who come to motorcycles from either a hobby, sport, or lifestyle perspective, and because of this motorcycles remain on the fringe of mainstream society.

For some, that is the allure. Motorcycling is “something different’ which in turns allows a motorcyclist to express their individuality in an obvious manner. To illustrate this point, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of flame threads that start on forums and blogs can be boiled down to the premise that because your enjoyment of motorcycles is different from my enjoyment of motorcycles, it therefore must be wrong.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Four Years Old Today

10/28/2012 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

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Today is a surreal landmark, as it marks our fourth year of publishing Asphalt & Rubber. If you cannot already tell, I am having a hard time believing that four years have gone by since I started this humble motorcycle blog (in the middle of corporate finance class, no less), but A&R continues to thrive despite my best dyslexic efforts.

It astonishes me that our “little” site is visited throughout the world on a daily basis, and that each month more people read A&R than all three of the major US motorcycle print magazines…combined.

Things keep on growing here, and I am deeply grateful now to be publishing the work of David Emmett on A&R, as he continues to be one of the most insightful writers in motorcycle racing, in both the print and online mediums.

This year, I am also very honored to have had regular written and photo contributions from Scott Jones, Daniel Lo, and Jules Cisek this year — their work has helped Asphalt & Rubber earn a reputation for stunning photography, and I hear compliments about their photography virtually every time I meet a loyal A&R reader in person.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Three Years Old Today

10/28/2011 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

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It’s the end of October, and there is a picture of me from a birthday track day, so that could mean only one thing: Asphalt & Rubber has aged another year. Now into our third year of this crazy online motorcycle blog experiment, I pleasantly get to reiterate some of the text from last year’s anniversary announcement, as A&R continues to grow beyond anything that this dyslexic kid, who routinely failed writing classes, could have imagined.

This year has been one marked with notable events, as Asphalt & Rubber has come to you live from a bevy of remote locations for our race and event coverage, such as Qatar, Australia, and the Isle of Man. Storming perhaps the last refuge for motorcycle print journalism, we’ve also become one of only two pure-online publications regularly seen in the MotoGP paddock.

But most impressively this year, Asphalt & Rubber passed the 500,000 reader mark, and fittingly this October is shaping up to be our best month ever in terms of traffic & readership…as was the month before that, and the month before that — with all of that math culminating into the fact that A&R has almost doubled in size since last year’s birthday announcement.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Two Years Old Today

10/28/2010 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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And now for the most important news story of the year: Asphalt & Rubber turns two-years-old today (clap you crazy bastards!). Officially now in our “terrible twos”, A&R continues to grow beyond anything I possibly could have imagined when I first started the site one cold October morning in a frost-covered Pennsylvania. Reporting everything from race results to business analysis, from industry news to humorous distractions, we’ve served over 1,800 articles to our now 300,000+ loyal monthly readers.

While I write occasionally, Asphalt & Rubber really wouldn’t be possible without the help from a metric ton of people, most notably Daniel Lloyd (systems administrator / reluctant coder), Dustin Gibbs (web developer / photographer / escape driver), Peter Lombardi (photographer / designer), Jason Yu (photographer / umbrella girl finder), Scott Jones (photographer / resident person over 50), and Tim Hoefer (hetero life-partner / tamed motorcycle rider). Also a big thanks goes out to all our friends (you know who you are) and family (thanks Mom for letting me use your basement) for supporting this sometimes profitable endeavor. But most importantly, thank you to all our readers, who make it all worthwhile.

Want to get in on the love fest? Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Facebook, or just leave a comment below.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Races of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Part of being a motorcycle enthusiast in the United States means waking up at odd hours to catch live coverage of your favorite racing series. Whether it be MotoGP, WSBK, or AMA, every racing Sunday is more like Easter Sunday as we hunt through the channel listings looking for our beloved sport on the television, sometimes finding the disappointment that the coverage has been pushed far back into the week as far as Wednesday.

For the motorcycle racing fanatics, this sort of Easter egg hunt is a ritual intrinsically tied to our love of two-wheeled racing. Thankfully, 2009 provided us some worthy racing treasures for all our efforts, and it is in this post we celebrate those moments.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Photos of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Keeping the theme going, motorcycling in 2009 was sometimes expressed better in a single frame, rather than in full-motion. With so many great photos coming in from a plethora of talented photographers, it’s hard to pick just a few that stand-out from the rest. But still, we gave it our best shot. Click past the jump for our picks.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Videos of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We saw a lot of great videos this past year. Some were funny, some were clever, and some were the epitome of motorcycle racing. Our top-picks pull from all of these genres, but we have to admit, the selection pool was limited by what was still available at the time of this writing.

Some of the biggest pieces of footage this year came from the WSBK and MotoGP racing series; unfortunately, the rights holders for these videos don’t feel like sharing the clips beyond their original air-dates. We’ll leave the issue about how this hurts the sport and motorcycle racing enthusiasts aside for today, so continue on past the jump for some great videos despite this situation.