Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

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.

Markus Hofmann + BMW S1000RR = Vampires?

11/06/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

I struggle with the work of Markus Hofmann, especially as it pertains to his work with BMW. Maybe it is the awkward intersection where high-fashion meets avant garde photography meets German motorcycles that just leaves me wondering what I am looking at with each photo. His work is impressive, don’t get me wrong…I just don’t “get” it…and today is no different.

I dunno, maybe the whole Twilight & True Blood thing is just now taking off in Germany, and this is the product of the world getting just a little bit flatter. Maybe there is a commentary about society lurking underneath the glossy exterior of these fanged photos. Or, maybe…just maybe, vampires are just waaay cooler than I think they are (werewolves baby, werewolves).

BMW HP4 Mega Gallery + Video

09/10/2012 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The international launch of the 2013 BMW HP4 is now over, and while we may not have been in Spain to bring you our thoughts on the pepped-up S1000RR, BMW was at least kind enough to provide A&R with some more photos of its winky-faced superbike. More than just an updated BMW S1000RR, the BMW HP4 features the German brand’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) system, a semi-active suspension system that fine-tunes the HP4’s suspension settings on the fly for the road and riding conditions.

Initial reports on the HP4 appear to be very favorable, though expect the pricing here in the United States to be as extreme as the Bavarian motorcycle’s tech specs. BMW hopes that with the DDC and bevy of aftermarket parts, the HP4 will more than justify its expected $20k+ price tag. Will it be enough to persuade riders away from the Aprilia/Ducati/KTM of their choosing? Check out the 126 photos and two videos after the jump and let us know.

BMW HP4 – Your Track-Tuned BMW S1000RR

07/27/2012 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

We teased you with the BMW HP4 last week, and now the Bavarians have made their tuned-S1000RR officially official. Starting with the top-selling superbike from the German company, BMW has taken the S1000RR and made it the track weapon of choice. The lightest four-cylinder superstock bike on the market at 373 lbs dry (with ABS), the BMW HP4 is also the first motorcycle to get BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), a computer controlled semi-active suspension system.

Getting a number of improvements over the S1000RR, the BMW HP4 maintains the same 193hp peak horsepower figure, but gets a boost from more mid-range torque. As we said, the BMW HP4 is also more svelte than its predecessor, as it sits at 439 lbs / 199 kg at the curb with the fuel tank 90% full — a full 13 lbs lighter when wet, and 26 lbs lighter when dry. Other changes include a revised traction control system, launch control, quick-shifter, and a 200/55 ZR 17 rear-tire size.

BMW Consolidates 2013 World Superbike Effort

07/16/2012 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

In an effort to reduce costs and focus resources, BMW Motorrad announced today that it would be consolidating its World Superbike racing program for the 2013 Championship. Folding the factory BMW Motorrad team into the current BMW Italia squad, the Italain arm of the German company will run the WSBK program, developing the chassis, finding sponsors, and handling all race-related items, while Munich will develop the WSBK-spec BMW S1000RR’s powertrain and electronics package.

Ride Review: The 2012 BMW World Superbike Race Bikes

07/10/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Lorenzo Gargiulo10 COMMENTS

As often happens when a major manufacturer decides to take a major leap by participating in a World Championship series the media goes crazy, which is exactly what happened when BMW Motorrad decided to descend on the tracks of the WSBK Championship. At the time, there were those who said that the BMW bike would have never been able to win a race, but the majority of the voices in and out of the paddock were pretty united in the concept that “if BMW decides it wants to win, sooner or later it will reach its objective,” something that as we have seen that happened in relatively little time.

After three seasons of “apprenticeship” that were necessary to get all the cogs working smoothly and to acquire the necessary experience on the track, BMW has finally reached the necessary competitive edge to reach the front of the pack, and from the beginning of the 2012 season the S1000RR has established itself as a contender at the top of the leaderboards. BMW Motorrad for the third year in a row, has given its most accredited journalists the possibility to try its racebikes mid-season, and we were clearly not going to let this opportunity slip by us.

The first time we were given this opportunity, it was BMW Motorrad Italy who gave us the handlebars of the S1000RR Superstock bike with which Andrea Badovini dominated the FIM Superstock Cup, and the success of this journalist test was so great that BMW Motorrad proper (the Germans) decided to open up the test to the official team bikes. In the meantime the Italian BMW team had debuted in WSBK, and so in 2011 we had the incredible opportunity to try all three types of racebikes.

So here we are in 2012, with the S1000RR which won its first victories in the WSBK Championship. More competitive and intriguing than ever and as has become a tradition, we are again ready to try the newest racing bikes with the famous BMW propeller on their tanks. The location may be different, as we now find ourselves in Misano Adriatico (which should make the Monza track haters among us quite happy), but everything else remains basically the same.

For the format, there are now four bikes to try. The warm-up laps to learn the track will be done on a stock S1000RR street bike, followed by a ride on the Superstock bike belonging to Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni. Following these we get some laps aboard the BMW Motorrad factory bikes of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, and the day on the BMW Motorrad Italia machines that are campaigned by Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio.

Bimota/BMW Concepts by Oberdan Bezzi

06/19/2012 @ 1:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We follow Oberdan Bezzi’s work pretty closely here at Asphalt & Rubber, if for no other reason than we like the Italian designer’s ability to fantasize about the endless possibilities available in the two-wheel world — and after, who here doesn’t like to daydream about exotic motorcycles? Lately it seems Bezzi’s imagination has gone to a world where Bimota uses more than Ducati’s v-twin lumps in its exclusive street bikes, with his most recent sketches envisioning a BMW/Bimota collaboration.

Inking the Bimota BB-2 superbike, and it’s naked sibling the Bimota BB-3 “Paura”, the usual Bezzi lines and style are present in the designs. Oberdan’s thought-process on the Bimota BB-3 seems to be well-timed though, as the Bavarian company has recently been caught testing a naked version of the well-selling BMW S1000RR at its facility. Set to be a true Germans streetfighter, BMW could very well succeed in a motorcycle segment that the Japanese have historically struggled with here in the US.

Spy Photo: BMW S1000RR Naked Bike Caught Testing

06/08/2012 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Pictures of a supposedly naked version of the BMW S1000RR have surfaced on MotoRevue, as the motorcycle was caught testing at BMW’s proving grounds by spy photographers. Showing an S1000RR-esque motorcycle with a half-fairing, the motorcycle would be just the second addition to BMW’s true sports bike line, after the S1000RR itself of course.

Expected to be a detuned version of the superbike variant, we can expect horsepower north 160hp, flat bars, and improved ergos from such a design experiment (in order to compete with the Aprilia Tuono V4 R and Ducati Streetfighter 848), though there is some reason to give pause about what these photos actually mean.

Recall: 2012 BMW S1000RR

04/27/2012 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad is recalling 1,414 units of its 2012 BMW S1000RR superbike because of improperly manufactured connecting rod bolts. Due to a manufacturing process error, the connecting rod bolts could become loose during high engine temperatures and/or high engine operating speeds. If the bolts do come loose, the result could be a catastrophic engine failure (their words, not ours).

Video: Lightning Electric Superbike vs. BMW S1000RR

02/29/2012 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

On Monday, we got a chance to swing a leg over the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike at Infineon Raceway. While a full review is till to come, the initial report is basically that Lightning’s bike pulls like a freight train when you get on the throttle, and despite how “big” it is, the electric superbike handles surprisingly well, even around the crucible that is Sears Point Infineon Raceway. During our test, Lightning Motorcycles’ Richard Hatfield tipped us off to a video with Ted Rich at the helm of the Lightning, with AMA Superbike rider Jake Holden giving chase (and video) on his BMW S1000RR race bike.

Lapping around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Holden and his BMW look like they could have gotten past the Lightning in several spots, though Rich and the Lightning certainly hold their own in the video. The Lightning’s straight-line speed is more than evident, as it pulls away from the 200+hp BMW S1000RR with ease, and as we experienced at Infineon, the bike is now slouch in the turns, and continues to develop in advance of the electric motorcycle racing season. Check out the video after the jump.

The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrad’s Sales Dominion

01/16/2012 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

We already told you that 2011 was BMW Motorrad’s best sales year ever, and that the BMW S1000RR topped the Bavarian brand’s charts here in the United States. Zie Germans must be feeling rather pleases with themselves right now (and rightfully so), as BMW has released more details about its all-time motorcycle sales record. Pushing out 104,286 units in 2011, BMW Motorrad was up 6.4% in 2011 over 2010, with each of the 2011’s twelve months outselling its 2010 counterpart. Toppling its previous sales record from 2007 (the height of the world economy), it says something about BMW’s current business strategy that it can best that figure in an economy that is still exceedingly weak in comparison.

It is interesting to note in which markets, and in which segments, BMW is finding this growth, because the answers are not necessarily our usual suspects. Basically doubling its worldwide 500+cc market share over the past four years, BMW now accounts for 12% of the worlds “big” displacement motorcycles by units sold per annum. This goes counter to the trend that we’ve seen, where small-displacement are being cast as the sales leaders for large brands (namely the Japanese Four).