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.

Video: An Honest Review of the Triumph Bonneville

12/11/2013 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

Video: An Honest Review of the Triumph Bonneville triumph bonneville 635x476

Is there truth in motorcycle reviews? That seems to be a debate that crops up time and time again, as it is hard to believe the journalistic veracity of publications that are entirely dependent on the dollars that flow forth from the major motorcycle OEMs. The conflicts of interest are high, the deadlines are tight, and there is of course the small matter of people having a difference of opinions, which all leads to public mistrust.

So it is refreshing when we see a frank motorcycle review that is free from the entanglements of typical motorcycle assessments — you know, a real honest impression of how a motorcycle is built in the factory and rides on the open road.

With a review as honest as this about the Triumph Bonneville, our protagonist has almost assured himself of a short career in motorcycle journalism. Still, it certainly provides some worthwhile entertainment, as long as you are not easily offended. It is possibly not safe for work as well — not that you read A&R from the confines of your office chair of course.

Video: The Unholy Two-Wheeled Motorcycle Burnout

11/26/2013 @ 1:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Video: The Unholy Two Wheeled Motorcycle Burnout two wheeled burnout 635x423

Motorcycling’s two-wheeled culture has seemed resistant to two-wheel drive machines, but maybe this video will be the breakthrough moment. After all, if one-wheeled burnouts are cool, then two-wheeled ones have to be twice as cool, right?

The logical conclusion to one of the more illogical undertakings we have seen, Gregor Halenda set out to convert his KTM Adventure 990 to use a Christini AWD system, and drive the bike’s front wheel for ultimate off-roadability. You know…because.

The process was not easy one, and it involved a bit of engineering prowess on the part of Cosentino Engineering to get the job done; but the result of all that hard work is a truly unique machine, and of course an epic two-wheeled burnout video.

There is a massive build thread on the ADV Rider forum for you gear-heads to spend hours poring over, and for the less technically advanced, there is a 2WD drive for dummies explanation in the video. Enjoy!

Red Bull Straight Rhythm = Real Life Excitbike Course

11/12/2013 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Red Bull Straight Rhythm =  Real Life Excitbike Course excitebike

As a member of the Nintendo-generation, nothing tickles my fancy more than to see an homage to some of the classics, and for motorcyclists is there any title more prolific than Excitebike? I think not. So it warms my gamer hearts to see that Red Bull has explored the idea of a real-life Excitebike course with its “straight rhythm” project.

Red Bull says that the course is “an innovative evolution of supercross where a track is ‘unwound’ — there are no turns, just a half-mile-long straight rhythm section. By isolating the whoops, triples, doubles, table tops and step on/offs, riders must focus exclusively on reading the terrain directly in front of them, correctly judging their speed for precise distance and control.”

To us, it looks like the energy drink company is hoping to make the Red Bull Straight Rhythm a new type of racing spectacle, and is using names like James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Marvin Musquin, Jessy Nelson, Cole Seely, and Justin Bogle to hock the new course format. Check it out after the jump, and be sure to pick who you are rooting for before they get started.

Here’s Your Feel-Good Moment for the Day

11/03/2013 @ 2:46 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Heres Your Feel Good Moment for the Day motorcycle help wheelchair 635x423

In our quest to bring you stories that show motorcyclists in a positive light, we bring you this feel-good video of one street-biker doing his daily good deed. Kudos to this street-biker. Beers are on us, if we ever meet up. Thanks for the tip Rose!

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And Now for Something Completely Different…

10/08/2013 @ 11:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

And Now for Something Completely Different... see see motorcycles moto food fantasy 635x355

Motorcycling has been serious stuff lately, thanks mostly to the shenanigans afoot in New York City with the Hollywood Stuntz Doofus Crew, and that’s ok…it’s ok to be serious from time-to-time. I try it myself occasionally.

I bet dollars to donuts though that most of you got into motorcycles because they are fun, because motorcycles are an escape from this very serious life. Thanks to the folks at See See Motorcycles, we return you to that lost world. Enjoy, and get your Wednesday on with renewed vigor.

MotoGP: This is HRC & This is How They Party

09/28/2013 @ 10:25 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: This is HRC & This is How They Party repsol honda rc213v dani pedrosa marc marquez 18 635x423

Marc Marquez has made a name for himself this season, not only by being a prodigy on two wheels, but also for being the light-hearted breath of fresh air that the MotoGP Championship needed so dearly.

Marquez himself is perhaps a stark contrast to his employer, the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), which is known for being a bit more uptight and mechanical with its persona.

After watching the video after the jump, we think we can safely say that Nakamoto-san and his crew have redefined HRC…and they might just be having the most fun in the MotoGP paddock in the process.

Trackside Tuesday: First in Flight

08/27/2013 @ 12:42 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: First in Flight 2013 motogp 09 laguna seca sunday 0432 e 635x423

The longer you spend trackside at a given circuit, the more you think you know what that circuit has to offer. The good shots are in this turn in the morning, that turn in the afternoon, and so on. It’s easy to hang on to this belief in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The fact is that small changes in location or perspective can turn a good image into an amazing one. I see this all the time when shooting at a track such as Catalunya or Phillip Island, where the trackside view of the circuit is not limited by large fences and their gaps. Often a turn looks good from one spot, but if you move a few steps farther along, the perspective changes dramatically.

But the more days you spend shooting at a given circuit, the easier it is to think you have it wired. Laguna Seca is getting to be like that for me. I’ve been attending and photographing races there as an amateur and then a pro for many years. Good friend and fellow photographer Jules Cisek and I were commiserating in July about our shared feeling of being a bit bored with our home track. The weekend before we’d both been at the Sachsenring, he for the first time, I for the second, and that had seemed like blissfully undiscovered country.

Rotary-Mounted Cam + Motorcycle Gymkhana = Awesome

07/31/2013 @ 4:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Rotary Mounted Cam + Motorcycle Gymkhana = Awesome rotary cam gymkhana 635x355

Motorcycle gymkhana is perhaps the ultimate test of any road racer’s bike control. Navigating machines through courses of curves and cones, it boggles even this veteran rider’s mind at the level of precision that goes into every maneuver, and every video of these special events is a free tutorial on the benefits of smooth throttle, brake, and clutch actuation.

It’s not like we need a real good reason to post up today’s installment, but someone finally figured out that a counterbalanced rotary video rig would be an awesome point-of-view perspective for this form of two-wheeled racing.

After the jump, we ride with the winner of this year’s Dunlop Autoby Cup, Round 3 — though, this might be one of those few videos where you’ll want to mute the sound, and play your own soundtrack. You’ll see what we mean…

Thinking of Off-Roading a Ducati Hypermotard SP?

07/26/2013 @ 3:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Thinking of Off Roading a Ducati Hypermotard SP? ducati hypermotard sp off road 635x423

When a press bike shows up at your doorstep, the miles on the odometer betray the sights and stories the bike could tell about its relatively short existence thus far.

At just nearly 2,000 miles, our little Ducati Hypermotard SP in the normal world would have stories of high-fives at the Ducatisti bike nights, hours spent in the parking lot outside of the local Starbucks, and maybe some tall tales of a wheelie or two.

But sort of on-par with dog-years, press-bike miles act as a multiplying factor, when in regards to the maturing of the machine. So with our machine at 2,000 miles, well that’s a bike that has really been around the block. Burnt clutches, blown fork seals, and chewed-up tires — those all likely describe this little SP’s first stop on the magazine tour bus, so multiply accordingly dear reader.

It is rare though that you really get to see/hear what the machine has gone through before it gets to you, but a quick check of the license plate in the video after the jump confirms that this “pretty impressive machine” has found its way into our hands. As far as we can tell so far, the description fits.

The Most Awesome Thing You Will See Today

07/22/2013 @ 8:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

The Most Awesome Thing You Will See Today luke yoda marc marquez valentino rossi star wars

Regular readers will know that Asphalt & Rubber is littered with Star Wars references — we are a bit dorky like that. Speaking for myself, I am an equal opportunity sci-fi nerd, giving healthy viewing times to the Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Babylon 5 franchises, just to name a few (David for some reason enjoys Farscape…no one is perfect).

If you read enough of our articles, a Boba Fett, Deathstar, or Bothan Spy reference is more than likely to crop up (dear I say, they are even expected??!) — so for the kids who were cool in high school: deal with it.

With that disclaimer being said, we bring to you the most awesome thing you will see this Monday: Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi photoshopped into the iconic movie frame of Yoda mentoring Luke Skywalker in the swampy forests of Dagobah. Thanks for the tip Gigi!