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.

Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain – 2013 Dakar Rally

03/13/2013 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2013-husqvarna-te449-rr-by-spedbrain-dakar-06

With the sale of Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG, the 2013 Dakar Rally marks the last time that the BMW Group will collaborate with Speedbrain GmbH for its rally and off-road racing duties — a partnership that has lasted since 2006.

Helping commemorate their last outing together, the Speedbrain’s factory-backed Husqvarna team has put together a little tribute video of its final Dakar campaign. Will the team live on with another brand? Only time will tell, but it would seem BMW’s off-road racing days are over.

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BMW Motorrad Sells Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG

01/31/2013 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Stefan-Pierer

Calling it a “strategic realignment” for BMW Motorrad, the BMW Group has confirmed the rumors and sold Husqvarna Motorcycles to Pierer Industrie AG, the holding company of KTM CEO Stefan Pierer. Saying the parties would not disclose the terms or purchase price of the transaction, the press release from BMW Motorrad was surprisingly light on any actual information.

Touting BMW’s commitment to urban mobility and electric vehicles, the German company will now focus solely on the BMW Motorrad brand. With reports saying that BMW Motorrad will not venture back into the dirt bike market, the company will maintain its on-road focus for the foreseeable future.

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Husqvarna Showing Life? 2012 Up 15% with an Asterisk

01/09/2013 @ 5:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

husqvarna-nuda-900

Normally when we talk about Husqvarna’s sales, it is about how the German-owned, Italian-run, Swedish-in-name-only brand is slowly collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Not so in 2012 though, as Husqvarna sales to dealers were up a solid 15.7% (10,751 units) over the 2011 figures (9,286 units).

Holy shnikeys Batman, but with numbers that sounds almost too good to be true, a closer examination of Husqvarna’s sales figures sheds some interesting facts. Fans of the brand, may not like what they have to hear after the jump.

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BMW ConnectedRide Could Help Drivers See Motorcyclists

10/15/2012 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

If you have ridden motorcycles for any extended period of time, you likely have had a “moment” with an automobile — it happens to every rider. Motorcycles have a small visual profile when viewed from the front and rear, and we move around in our lanes, favoring the sides or the middle, depending on the road and traffic conditions. We change velocities with ease, accelerate much quicker than a car, and in a predominantly four-wheeled society, drivers are conditioned to look for an automobile in their mirrors, not a motorcycle.

I can barely go a week without hearing a story from a fellow motorcyclist about how he or she was cut-off by some “cager” that was either not paying attention, or worse, intentionally out to injure them. The truth is, there is no great car conspiracy to run motorcycles off the road, though some drivers do let their road rage get ahead of them, not realizing that a car is two-ton rolling weapon. A great component to being a seasoned motorcyclist is riding defensively, which includes understanding that lawful riding doesn’t always mean prudent riding.

A large portion of my “near misses” I saw before they even happened. A driver on a phone, a car hugging one side of the line, a gap forming in a lane during traffic, all these things are enticements to a driver to change lanes rapidly and without caution. These conditions should also be signals to a rider to be weary of the four-wheeled vehicle near them, as the burden is on us as motorcyclists to ensure our own safety on the road — we are silly to place that burden on someone else, especially someone within the relative safety an automobile provides.

When I hear these near-miss stories, what I rarely hear are the events that happened 30 seconds before the incident. Did the motorcyclist change lanes? How long had they been behind / next to / in front of the car in question? Did they see the driver in his or her mirror? If so, what were they doing? Sure, when they came over into your lane, nearly running you off the road, they were legally at fault, but you were in the wrong to think they wouldn’t do such an act.

Motorcycles conform to traffic patterns that are different from those used by automobiles. It is entirely possible for an attentive driver to check for a clear lane, and within the time it takes to signal and move lanes, a previously unseen motorcycle can take that space. All the “Look Twice” campaigns in the world cannot overcome the reality that if a motorcyclist puts him or herself in a rightful, but dangerous position, a bad outcome can still occur. But what if cars and motorcycles talked to each other?

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Husqvarna TR 650 Terra – An Off-Road Strada

07/12/2012 @ 10:00 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna TR 650 Strada, our favorite German-owned Italian-based Scandinavian-branded motorcycle company has released a 21-inch-wheeled version of the Strada that is destined for more off-road use. They call it the Husqvarna TR 650 Terra. Using the same 652cc water-cooled single-cylinder DOHC motor, the Husqvarna Terra also makes 58hp and 44.25 lbs•ft of torque, just like the Husqvarna Strada.

Tipping the scales a bit lighter than its road-going sibling, the Terra has a dry weight here in the United States of 368 lbs (410 lbs wet). Available with ABS as an option in other markets, it appears our more feature-reluctant American riders will only be given the non-ABS variant of the pseudo off-road machine (apparently Husky isn’t a part of BMW’s pledge for universal ABS). While the Terra shares many components with the Strada, BMW Husqvarna hopes that the minor changes between the two bikes will help facilitate the Husqvarna Terra’s more off-road oriented purpose in life.

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BMW Motorrad Posts Best Quarter Ever…Again

04/10/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on BMW Motorrad Posts Best Quarter Ever…Again

Writing about BMW Motorrad’s quarterly sales announcements is starting to become an exercise in mad libs, and I really should just create a template that is full of praise and positive comments, leaving blank only the spots where the figures of units sold and percentage growth should go. Since I have no such template at my disposal, here we go again with the back-slapping about BMW’s sales juggernaut. Read onward for more sales news from Zie Germans.

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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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Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

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BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All-Time Sales in 2011

01/09/2012 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The BMW Group has released its 2011 sales numbers, and the results for BMW Motorrad are very impressive indeed. Posting its best yearly sales figures ever in the brand’s nearly 90-year history, BMW Motorrad surpassed its previous high-water mark, set in 2007, of 102,467 units by selling 104,286 units in 2011 (Q1, Q2, & Q3).

Accordingly, sales for 2011 were up 6.4% over 2010, which saw the brand sell 98,047 units last year. Helping spur that sales growth was BMW Motorrad’s strong performance in December 2011, as the German motorcycle manufacturer delivered 4,232 units worldwide in the last month of the year alone, a 12.4% increase over sales in December 2010.

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November BMW Sales Up 3.9% – Husqvarna Down 28.4%

12/14/2011 @ 8:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad’s November sales numbers are in, and they show that the German company is still chugging away at a very strong sales year in 2011. Already surpassing the company’s figures from 2010 by 6.1% (which was no slouch of a year for BMW, we might add), BMW has 100,054 units already under its belt for this year. Moving 6,112 units in November, BMW’s sales are up 3.9% over those from November 2010, which continues the German brand’s strong growth in 2011.

BMW Motorrad, along with most of the European motorcycle brands, have enjoyed relatively positive figures throughout 2011 and in the previous recession. One of the more glaring exceptions to that statement however is Husqvarna. Selling 1,181 units last month, Husqvarna is down 28.4% when compared to November 2010. And for the year as a whole, Husky is down 22.5% compared to 2010, selling only 7,956 units YTD.

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