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.

Video: Dubstep + Flat Track + Slow-Mo

10/27/2014 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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If I’m doing my math right, it’s Monday back home. Time to get the week started. Time to start the countdown to the next weekend. If you cringed at the thought, we have something to help get you through the rest of the day. Dubstep, meets flat track racing at the Springfield Mile, meets slow-motion cinematography. It’s not going to win at Sundance, but it’s highly mesmerizing…and flat track is just damn cool.

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Video: Husqvarna FS 450 – Just Take Our Money

09/12/2014 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Husqvarna as a brand is seeing new life within KTM, albeit currently as dressed up KTM and Husaberg models. Still, Husky fans have to be happy to see the once Swedish brand living with some stability in its life. Nixing bikes like the Husqvarna Nuda, as well as the Husqvarna Moab and Husqvarna Baja concepts, the Husky reboot has been absent of on-road machines.

The Husqvarna FS 450 doesn’t really change that reality, as the supermoto comes in race-only trim (it’s really just a KTM 450 SX-F with the appropriate SM modifications), but the FS 450 certainly is a good start in that direction.

Supermotos might be the most fun you can have on two wheels, and Husqvarna’s video makes us hope that a ‘tard finds its way to the US market, with lights and turn signals preferably.

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TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

09/06/2014 @ 1:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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I’ve been riding track days for almost as long as I’ve owned a motorcycle. It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with my motorcycle experience, and probably is the reason why Asphalt & Rubber has such a sport bike / racing slant when it comes to our story-mix. So, I know all too well the trials and tribulations of taping up a bike before heading to the track.

Some track groups don’t require tape, as long as you pull the fuses to your headlight, tail light, and turn signals. Some track groups recognize that the plastic used on these lighting systems is brittle, can easily shatter, and thus need some tape over them for the unthinkable. Regardless, I guarantee that if you do enough track days with anything but a dedicated track bike, you will learn the hassle of taping a headlight at some point in time.

When it comes time to doing this right of passage, there are two schools of thought: 1) duck it and fuck it, and 2) razor blade artistry. The prior involves just slapping tape (usually horrid blue masking tape) in one easy but sloppy job, while the latter means painstakingly applying perfectly measured strips of matte black gaffer tape, and then trimming the excess with a razor blade. One theory is quick and easy, while the other can mean attractive track photos, but hours of your life lost.

That’s not the case anymore though, dear track day enthusiasts. Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process.

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MotoGP Riders Step-Up for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

08/21/2014 @ 1:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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You would have to live a life devoid of social media — raising some interesting issues about how you’re on Asphalt & Rubber in the first place — not to know about the Ice Bucket Challenge videos that occurring to help raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The campaign is pretty straight forward: someone nominates you to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, you post up a video of you accepting the challenge, and then you nominate a three other people to take the challenge themselves within 24hrs — or, you can opt for the drier and warmer alternative, and donate $100 to the ALS Association.

It’s all good clean wholesome fun, and it really doesn’t matter if you cut a check or take a dunk, the ALSA benefits either way from the money and/or increased exposure. A clever pieces of marketing, the Ice Bucket Challenge has reportedly increased donations to the ALSA nearly ten-fold, and it’s not uncommon to see celebrities getting in on the fun, even in the MotoGP paddock.

First up was Jorge Lorenzo unsurprisingly, as the Spaniard has often used his fame to help charities. After taking an ice bath, Lorenzo challenged fellow Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, current MotoGP points-leader Marc Marquez, and recent race-winner Dani Pedrosa, well…the results are after the jump.

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Video: Rider Nails the Landing After a Nasty Crash

08/19/2014 @ 10:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The upside to having rampant insurance fraud with motor vehicles is the increased use of dashboard cameras, at least that’s our selfish take on the situation currently in Russia. If that’s truly the case, then the crowning achievement of that philosophy is surely the following video.

Going far too fast for the flow of traffic, our protagonist finds himself quickly cut-off by a car that is changing lanes. What happens next is entirely predictable, yet incredibly not. We don’t want to give it away, just watch it after the jump…no pun intended. Thanks for the tip Taco Ben!

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Kawasaki USA Rebrands “Good Times Protection Plan”

08/19/2014 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Kawasaki USA announced today that it is rebranding its tragically named extended warranty program from the “Good Times Protection Plan” to “Kawasaki Protection Plus” for reasons we feel are too obvious to elaborate upon.

However, the real astonishing story here is that for the past 28 years, Kawasaki has made its dealers say with a straight face “Good Times Protection Plan” to would-be buyers, who were looking for more protection for…umm…what was between their legs.

Ahh, I remember in college when I had a “good times protection plan” — though you either had to buy a pack at the grocery store, or suffer through the line at Student Health to get them for free. That and other penis jokes await you in the comments section. Don’t plan on seeing Kawasaki advertise on A&R anytime soon after this.

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The #1 BMW Motorcycle Fan? — That’s a Tall Order!

08/15/2014 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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I’m not complaining, but it’s been a busy week for Asphalt & Rubber’s Editor-in-Chief. Monday was spent getting back from the Indianapolis GP, where Dan and Tony once again proved how they are some of the most amazing photographers in the business, David as usually decrypted the paddock and wrote what should be considered the gold standard of daily summaries, and I…well, I tried to stay out of everyone’s way.

Finally back in California, Tuesday saw the hard drive in my laptop give up the ghost, and thus was spent knee-deep in nerdom with Scott — who knew that a #6 pentalobe screwdriver would be so difficult to find?! Wednesday was spent at the Honda CBR300R press launch, which for reasons beyond comprehension I drove to, instead of flying. Thursday meant swimming through the 800 or so emails that I neglected throughout the weeks’ activities, which just leaves me to say how is it Friday already?

Again I’m not complaining, but thank goodness it’s the end of the week. Anyhoo, I’m sure everyone has had their share of busy weeks, especially as summer is beginning to wind down. To help lighten the load, here’s a video of a giraffe that really loves himself some BMW motorcycles. If anyone asks, I’m saying a reader sent this to me…yeah…a reader…that’s what happened…

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What’s Bigger: Indy Motor Speedway or Star Wars?

08/10/2014 @ 2:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Since we are a bunch of stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herders, it seems only appropriate that we conclude this already slightly absurd string of articles about the size of Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the only way we really know how: using equally absurd Star Wars references.

So, in the narrow overlap that occurs in the Venn diagram of MotoGP factoids and outright nerdiness, we ask you to ponder which is bigger: the IMS oval or the Star Wars universe’s iconic spaceship, the Imperial Star Destroyer?Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.

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A Shameless Opportunity to Talk About Mad Max: Fury Road

07/28/2014 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Apparently there’s a new Mad Max reboot coming out, and it looks awesome. I have nothing really to say beyond that, and will argue a tenuous link to our usual content on Asphalt & Rubber because motorcycles are one of the best ways to survive the onslaught Imperator Furisoa (Charlize Theron) in George Miller’s post-apocolyptic imagination.

It’s interesting to think about Hollywood’s inclusion of motorcycles in collapse-of-civilization scenarios though. Is it because two-wheeled transportation is the best way to get around when roads no longer exist, much in the same way that Riders for Health uses motorcycles to effectively get medical aid to remote locations?

Or, is it some subliminal message that Hollywood feeds off of (and thus also helps create) that tells us society has truly fallen apart if we are riding motorcycles…much like how a movie character’s act of smoking a cigarette was used to heighten his/hers cool or mysterious persona?

I don’t know the answer to those question, but it keeps me up at night. I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller!

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Event Report: Dirt Quake USA

06/27/2014 @ 4:06 pm, by Sean Smith7 COMMENTS

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It’s Sunday morning and after we hit the ATM, I ask Ash to check the event website and see what time tech inspection is. In my head, its sometime around 11:15, and no bikes are to be started before 12:00 on Sunday (at the request of a local church).

Ash reports that the web site says tech inspection is from 9-10 and that the rider meeting was at 10:15. Shit. I text Thor Drake (my boss from See See Motorcycles,who is sponsoring the event), it’s 10:24. We’re in Longview, driving a borrowed Mazda B2500 that has a terrible miss, which only gets worse with more throttle.

We arrive at the scene in Castle Rock, WA. There are people in shorts riding all manner of choppers, Thor is dressed in white 12 o’clocking a slice of Sizzle Pie that Bjorn Drake affixed to a Honda ATC200, something to do with some advertising deal, but no one cares. It’s awesome.

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