Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

Editor’s Blog: A Last Lingering Thought for 2014

12/31/2014 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case).

Going through my various feeds, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides, but bear with me first.

Editor’s Blog: Just Say Yes

11/16/2014 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

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It seems like we hardly talk anymore, you and I. Sure, every day I and the rest of the Asphalt & Rubber crew bring you stories to help fuel your motolust, but aside from the snarky messages I leave in the comments section, we haven’t really been getting enough “us time”, so to speak.

I want to change that, at least intermittently, on these doldrum Sundays, with a column that really has nothing to do with motorcycles…at least not directly.

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now this year, but I just didn’t get around to starting because either I thought I was too busy, or I didn’t have a subject at-hand to explore, or I dunno…derringers.

Now as I begin planning what’s ahead for A&R in 2015, I see the same problem occurring: projects have long languished on my to-do list, and I keep saying “yeah, we should do that…” with no results in sight.

The issue is one of impulse, that moment of force that pulls you from the warm spot on the couch and back to the Bat Cave again. The issue is one of “saying yes”, ideally with reckless abandon.

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.

A Year in Review with Asphalt & Rubber: 2012

12/31/2012 @ 7:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case). Going through my RSS feed, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides.

Unsurprisingly, the starting point to our story begins roughly 12 months ago, as with the start of each year I like to look back on the 365 or so days we just completed, and outline my plans for the coming year. Some of that planning is just basic business stuff like benchmarks I hope to achieve with the site traffic, readership, and financials, while the rest of that planning is comprised of stories or events I would like the site to attend and cover.

Four continents, a dozen or so timezones, and more countries than I can remember, the 1,000+ articles written this year on Asphalt & Rubber are truly international in their origin, as are the 4.5+ million of you who came here and read those stores 10 million times. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the site continues to grow in the double digits, with the A&R readership growing another 30% in 2012 over last year.

Pushing over 20 TB (the TB stands for terabytes, or 1,024 gigabytes) of data, those numbers make Asphalt & Rubber not only just the largest motorcycle blog in the United States, but one of the largest in the world — something I find mildly amusing, since yours truly is more than mildly dyslexic.

As for trends, being an online publication means that we are on the front line of watching the motorcycle industry’s adoption of social media, with 10% of our readers finding us on social networks. The real interesting part? This figure is up 40% over last year.

Instead of just listing our top ten or so stories this year, something which most of you could probably guess the list of quite easily, I have tried to cultivate some basic topics from within the industry and the stories that drove those topics this year, as well as some stories that stood out to our editorial eyes. Enjoy them after the jump.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Four Years Old Today

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

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.

Site News: Asphalt & Rubber Is Now on Google+

01/11/2012 @ 9:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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You may have already noticed the Google+ “+1″ buttons on the site, as lately we’ve been playing around with the social networking service here at Asphalt & Rubber. It took the internet search behemoth a while to roll out pages for sites like A&R, but we’ve finally gotten our Google+ page up, and had some time to populate it with articles and such.

An alternative to website’s like Facebook, Google+ most notably lets you share and connect with other users based on your social circles, e.g. you can select to share articles from A&R only with your motorcycling friends (sparring your non-motorcycle friends from your two-wheeled addiction). So, if Google+ is your social network of choice, be sure to follow us on there to get your daily motorcycle fix, and “+1″ any articles you wish to share.

Fastest in San Francisco is a Sellout

12/01/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

We hope you bought your tickets to the San Francisco premiere of Fastest, Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary, because our screening, co-sponsered by the San Francisco Dainese Store, has sold out. If you happen to fall into the group of GP junkies who haven’t purchased tickets to the SF Fastest screening, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve left 20 or so tickets waiting for you at the box office, but you’ll have to pick them up in person, and by pick them up, we mean walk/ride/swim to the Embarcadero Center Cinema right now.

For those of you who already purchased your tickets, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve got a fun evening planned for you. Director Mark Neale will be on-hand to do a Q&A about making Fastest, and we’ve got some nice items to raffle off to attendees, with all proceeds going to Asphalt & Rubber‘s favorite charity: Riders for Health. The official charity of MotoGP, Riders for Health is an international non-profit organization that provides motorcycles (and rider safety and maintenance) to healthcare workers in Africa.

Asphalt & Rubber Turns Three Years Old Today

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

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.