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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Sunday Summary at Sepang: Pedrosa’s Revenge, Lorenzo’s Valiant Defense, & History Made in Moto3

10/14/2013 @ 12:42 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Sepang: Pedrosas Revenge, Lorenzos Valiant Defense, & History Made in Moto3 dani pedrosa sepang motogp repsol honda1 635x423

Sunday at Sepang provided a fascinating mix for motorcycle racing fans. A blistering Moto3 race, an impressive, if shortened, Moto2 race, and some breathtaking action in MotoGP. History was made several times over, and best of all, the races took place in front of a sellout crowd. Over 80,000 fans packed the stands in Malaysia, proof, if any were needed, of the slow, eastward drift of motorcycle racing’s center of gravity.

In the MotoGP race, Dani Pedrosa did what he had set out to do two weeks earlier at Aragon, before he was so rudely ejected from his bike. Pedrosa had a look of grim determination on his face from the moment he rolled up at Sepang, and it barely left him all weekend. He had come to do a job, the pain in his hips merely spurring him on to get what he had been robbed of by an overeager teammate and an exposed sensor.

BMW Motorrad Posts Best Month Ever – BMW R1200GS Leads the Way with 27% of Company Sales

05/13/2013 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad Posts Best Month Ever   BMW R1200GS Leads the Way with 27% of Company Sales 2013 BMW R1200GS engine 635x476

Record months, quarters, and years are becoming an old hat for BMW Motorrad, and last month continues the trend for the German brand. Selling 14,587 motorcycles in April 2013, BMW Motorrad says that it saw an 11.5% sales increase over April 2012.

The primary contributor for that sales boost is the 2013 BMW R1200GS, which has been completely redesigned from its venerable predecessor, and now includes “strategic” liquid-cooling for the cylinder heads, and a bevy of other enhancements (A&R will be swinging a leg over one shortly).

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012

01/28/2013 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012 honda logo 635x400

Honda Motor Co. has reported its 2012 sales figures, with the Japanese behemoth showing a 5% sales drop for 2012, when compared to 2011. Selling 15.6 million units last year, Honda made progress in its home country Japan (+1%), as well as in North America (+25%) and Europe (+22%).

However in Honda’s most volume-heavy markets, the company suffered modest loses: South America (-14%), Asia (-5%), and China (-1%). With three out of four Honda motorcycles being sold in Asia, the region’s 5% dip essentially assured the Japanese company’s sales loss for the year.

30% of Honda’s Business to Come from India by 2020

05/16/2012 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

30% of Hondas Business to Come from India by 2020 india flag overlay

As several of our readers pointed out in the latest financial report from Honda, The United States, and North America as a whole, represent just a very small portion of Big Red’s total volume of motorcycle sales. For Honda’s 2011 fiscal year, North America sold a whopping 1.6% of the company’s total motorcycle inventory, while Asia accounted for nearly 79% of Honda’s total sales.

While Honda and other motorcycle manufacturers certainly makes better margins on the units they sell in North America and in Europe, the volume opportunities abroad in emerging markets are far more lucrative for OEMs.

With 1.2 billion people (17% of the global population) and still growing, India is the shining star in emerging markets, so it should come as no surprise that Honda is forecasting that 30% of its business will come from India by 2020, as the Japanese company further increases its presence in Asian markets.

Yamaha’s Sales Up in North America, But Down Worldwide

05/14/2012 @ 5:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Yamahas Sales Up in North America, But Down Worldwide 2012 yamaha yzf r1 ben spies 635x423

Honda appears to be the only Japanese OEM making headway in 2012, as Yamaha has reported its sales figures for Q1 2012, and the tuning fork brand is down slightly worldwide, despite being up significantly in North America. Selling 1.599 million units worldwide in the first three months of the year, Yamaha is down 5.3% when compared to the 1.689 million units it sold last year during the same time period.

With most of the lost sales occurring in the Asian markets, Yamaha is blaming the currency exchange and the flooding in Thailand for their effects on its first quarter global sales. However on a smaller front, Yamaha can at least thank the rebounding economy in North America, as domestically the company is up 25% for Q1 2012 — as insignificant to its core business as the North American markets may be.

Video: Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

01/11/2012 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Video: Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City time lapse Rob Whitworth 635x420

Fresh off the awesome truck, this time-lapse video seems apropos to our earlier discussion regarding motorcycling in Southeast Asia. A short film featuring tens of thousands of photographic stills, photographer Rob Whitworth has not only managed to capture the dense urban nature of Ho Chi Minh City but has also found a way to translate it into a very eye-catching depiction. It’s part chaos, it’s part art. It’s all Vietnam. Video & 18 stills after the jump, while a more detail Q&A on the project can be found at WORD HCMC.

Lawless Jakarta & Some Thoughts About Southeast Asia

01/10/2012 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Here’s a random factoid delivered in the form of a question for you: when looking at the metrics for the A&R website, A&R Twitter account, and A&R Facebook page, which city do you think is responsible for the most readers? We are an American-based website after all, so your top picks might be New York, Los Angeles, or maybe San Francisco, right? Nope. Half our traffic does come from abroad though, so maybe London? Paris? Rome? Barcelona? Wrong again dear readers, because when it comes to a single city consuming the moto-goodness that we publish on a daily basis, none of them have anything on Jakarta, Indonesia (yes, the title of article gave that one away, huh?).

I recently talked about this phenomenon with another online motojournalist, who was experiencing the same trend, and he concluded that it must be employees using proxy servers so they can read blog while at work. I disagreed however, and when looking at where the industry as a whole is currently headed, I think there is something much more basic at play here. Developing countries are the future of motorcycling, and right now Southeast Asia is a hot bed of growth for motorcycle sales. With a less developed infrastructure, and still a need to get from Point A to Point B, motorcycles provide a cheap and effective means of transportation in countries like Indonesia, and for many, motorcycles have become a way of life.

Triumph Entering the Indian Market

06/29/2011 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Triumph Entering the Indian Market 2011 Triumph Daytona 675R 635x423

If you follow where the volume and the growth in the motorcycle industry come from, then it should be no surprise to hear that Triumph has announced its intention to enter the Indian market with its motorcycles. The 109-year-old brand based out of Hinckley is just the latest of many major OEMs to enter India, whose high tariffs and exploding market necessitate a local presence by manufacturers in order to be competitive. Rest assured the rest of this post will be devoid of any mention of the irony in the British brand entering into the once British colonial market of India.

Honda Sales Up 19% Globally for 2010 – Sells 80% in Asia

01/27/2011 @ 7:40 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Honda Sales Up 19% Globally for 2010   Sells 80% in Asia Honda Super Cub 635x476

Honda Motor Co. just released its sales figures for motorcycles in 2010, and surprisingly the Japanese company has done very well during an otherwise dismal year for the motorcycle industry. The secret to Honda’s success? The Asian market. Eight out of ten motorcycles Honda produces, ends up in Asia…and this figure excludes motorcycles sold in Japan and China.

Honda sold 14.3 million motorcycles in what it calls Asian countries last year (17.7 million globally), a record for the company, and a figure that is 23% higher than the previous record, which was set last year (another horrible year for the motorcycle industry we might add). Compare that staggering quantity to the 1.3 million units sold in China (the largest single country for Honda sales), 261,000 units sold in Europe, and 210,000 in North America, and the true value of the growing Asian economy becomes apparent.

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand

01/06/2011 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand 2011 Ducati Superbike 848 EVO 635x423

Get ready to pour some peanut sauce on your spaghetti as Bologna Bullets destined for the Southeast Asian markets will soon be produced in Ducati’s newly planned factory in Thailand.

Being called a “final assembly” plant, the move is similar to the one that Harley-Davidson undertook late last year, where the Bar & Shield brand setup an assembly plant in India in order to side-step the extremely high tariffs the country puts on foreign-made motorcycles.

In addition to Harley-Davidson, Ducati will be joining the likes of Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Brembo, all of whom have increased their presence in the Asian markets within the past year to capitalize on the growing economies of India, China, and Southeast Asia.