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.

Can the KTM 200 Duke Ride Thru Knee-High Water?

05/16/2012 @ 8:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

For some, the KTM 125 Duke is just not quite enough machine to get their two-wheeled juices flowing, and thus the KTM 200 Duke & soon-to-be-expected KTM 350 Duke were born. With the Austrian motorcycle maker KTM partnering with India’s second-largest motorcycle brand Bajaj to make the baby Duke, it should come as no surprise then that many of these models are ending up outside of Europe, and in Asian markets…namely India itself.

While us Westerners might think of the KTM 200 Duke as a fairly practical machine, buyers in India are a bit more skeptical, since their day-to-day travel can be a bit more varied than ours. You see, India right now is preparing for its summer monsoon season, and flooding in certain regions is more of a certainty than a special phenomenon. So while an underslung exhaust might look stylish to us Americans, to an Indian motorcyclist it could look to be more of a liability.

Hoping to purge that thought from Indian riders’ minds, KTM has put together this video outlining its wet-weather survivability testing. If you ever wanted to know whether you can park the KTM 200 Duke in wheel-high water for 30 minutes or more sans snorkel, check out the video after the jump.

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Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.

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Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM

07/28/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj Auto has an insatiable appetite for KTM, and the Indian company has slowly been gobbling up KTM stock, and now is just under a 40% shareholder in the Austrian motorcycle company. With Cross Industries AG holding 51% of the company in its control, the Austrians have made it clear that they will not give up majority control of KTM, especially to the Indian automotive company. However, analysts are predicting Bajaj could take its partnership with KTM to its limit, purchasing up to 49% of the company’s stock.

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Bajaj Continues to Gobble Up KTM Stock

05/16/2011 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj’s appetite for KTM stock seems to be never-ending, though slow in digestion, as the Indian company has acquired another 1.21% of the Austrian motorcycle maker. Gobbling up shares from other minority holders on the open market, Bajaj now has a 39.3% interest in KTM, while majority shareholder CROSS continues with its 50.1% stake.

CROSS has made it clear it intends is to remain the majority shareholder, and has no plans of selling-out its position to the Indian company (or has it?). So, no corporate takeovers just yet, but a continuation of an interesting move by Bajaj in investing with KTM.

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2011 KTM Duke 200 Spotted Again

02/11/2011 @ 9:01 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Our friends at IndianCarsBikes.in have spied the KTM 200 Duke again out testing again near Bajaj’s factory in Pune, India. This time riding down the street, we get to see how the 200cc variant of the KTM 125 Duke will sit with an adult on the frame, and the bike looks fairly comfy for a full-sized person (although we have no idea how tall the rider actually is of course). The second spy shot of the KTM 200 Duke in a just a week, Bajaj is either getting sloppy (unlikely), or the debut of this machine could be edging closer and closer to reality.

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KTM 200 Duke Caught Testing

02/09/2011 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Is this the KTM 200 Duke? The folks at OverDrive.in were fortunate enough to encounter in Pune what looks like a pre-production KTM Duke destined for the Indian market. Taking the photo above, OverDrive wasn’t certain if this was the KTM 125 Duke that the Austrian company launched at Intermot this year, or if it was a larger displacement version that’s been rumored to be coming from the minds of Bajaj & KTM.

Luckily the guys at IndianCarsBikes.in were able to get Rajiv Bajaj on the line and ask him about the photo, and the son of the Bajaj empire confirmed that what we see here is the 200cc KTM 200 Duke that will be an India-only model. Reportedly a deal hatched between KTM and Bajaj, the Indian market will get a slightly larger version of the new Duke, which will be liquid-cooled, have DOHC, and be positioned on the premium side of the market equation.

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Honda Becoming Its Own Hero in India

12/06/2010 @ 7:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

We know it’s a cryptic headline, but there’s a big HUGE move happening today in India as far as motorcycles are concerned, and we couldn’t help being overly dramatic. Holding a 26% stake in Hero Honda, Honda announced that it will be selling its position in Indian joint-venture, the world’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, to the Hero Group’s founders, the Munjal family, and various investment funds.

Honda in turn will be pumping its resources into its own fully-owned subsidiary in India called Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI). Buying its stock back at a discounted rate, the Honda will be selling the stock to Hero Honda for $1.2 billion, presumably in exchange for a larger percentage of the company’s early revenue (Honda currently takes home 2.5% of Hero Honda’s yearly revenue).

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Bajaj Gobbles Up Some More KTM Stock

11/30/2010 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj must be celebrating a late Thanksgiving (we might be talking about the wrong Indians here) as the Pune-based automotive group has gobbled up some more shares of Austrian company’s stock. Strengthening the two companies’ strategic partnership, Bajaj has modestly increased its 35.67% interest in KTM, becoming a 38.08% shareholder. Also coming out of the orange brand is news that Stefan Pierer will continue on as CEO of the company through 2015, and Friedrich Roithner, formerly of DGF Cross Industries, will take on the role of Financial Director in the new year.

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2011 KTM 125 Duke – The Bike Bajaj Built

10/09/2010 @ 1:10 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Finally officially debuted at Intermot, KTM took the wraps off its 2011 KTM 125 Duke, a single-cylinder street bike geared towards young riders. While KTM has always included off-road machines in its line-up that are aimed at getting younger riders to ride orange, the company until now has left a gapping hole in its on-road offering for the same demographic. With Bajaj taking a 35% stake in KTM, the Indian company has not only given the Austrian company the capital it needed to expand its line, but is also rumored to be the major driving force behind the 2011 KTM 125 Duke.

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The World is Not Enough – Bajaj Wants to Create a Three-Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki

09/24/2010 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

According to Indian publication Bike Advice, Bajaj is looking to cultivate its relationships with KTM & Kawasaki further, hoping to create a three-way alliance that would build off the strengths of each company. Since 1986 Bajaj has had technical ties to Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki, with Bajaj paying royalties to Kawasaki for basing its creations off Kawasaki designs. Bajaj and Kawasaki also share distribution channels, with Bajaj motorcycles being sold at Kawasaki dealerships, and vice versa.

In 2007 the Indian manufacturer bought a 17% stake in KTM (Bajaj has since increased its stake in the Austrian company to 35% in 2008, with further investment plans rumored), which allowed Bajaj access to Europe and KTM access to India. Bajaj has also gained some of KTM’s knowledge on two-stroke motors, while KTM has seen the small-bike specialist help them with its soon-to-be released KTM 125 Duke project.

With all these relationships being fostered, and obvious synergies existing, Bajaj wants to take its relationship with each company to the next level (in America we call that Third Base), and change the level of collaboration so it goes three-ways. The affect would be a merger, without the merger.

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