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.

Motus Sets Two Land Speed Records at Bonneville

10/03/2014 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Motus Sets Two Land Speed Records at Bonneville Motus MST R land speed record bonneville 11 635x423

This has not been a good year for speed freaks looking to set land speed records at Bonneville, as the Utah course has been subject to a series of storms, which have either left the salt flats flooded, or the salt conditions unsuitable for record-smashing.

That didn’t seem to stop Motus Motorcycles at the AMA-sanctioned 2014 Bonneville Speed Trials event, as the upstart motorcycle company walked away with two records, in the 1650cc P-PP  (165.81 mph) and (168.69 mph) 1650cc P-PG classes –set respectively by Motus founders Lee Conn and Brian Case.

Bonneville: Microclimate of the Salts Video

09/12/2014 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Bonneville: Microclimate of the Salts Video CastrolRocket 1600x1200 image 4 635x476

It’s been a tough season on the Bonneville Salt Flats, as the weather has played havoc on the narrow window that land-speed record pursuers have to operate. One of the groups looking to make history is Triumph, which is looking to break the 400 mph mark on a motorcycle.

Campaigning the Triumph Castrol Rocket, with Jason DiSalvo at the helm, Triumph hoped to be speeding down the salt these past few weeks, but instead the team has been rained out of competition thus far.

There are still opportunities remaining this year for the Triumph Castrol Rocket squad, the next being the rescheduled Mike Cook’s Bonneville Shootout, which will take place on October 5th thru 10th, where the streamliners two Triumph Rocket III engines will roar again search for the outright two-wheeled record.

Bonneville Speed Week Cancelled on Account of Rain

08/11/2014 @ 4:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Bonneville Speed Week Cancelled on Account of Rain bonneville salt flats water SCTA 635x357

It’s that time of year again, when the devote followers of velocity congregate at the alter of speed, and make their pilgrimage to the Bonneville Salt Flats. For the Southern California Timing Association though, this month’s Bonneville Speed Week was a wash, literally.

Getting heavy rain in the Salt Lake City area, the Bonneville Salt Flat course is under water this week, unfortunately causing the SCTA to cancel Speed Week, and what would have been the 100th anniversary of the first land speed record at the iconic venue.

Video: Setting a Land Speed Record on a Stock CBR600RR

01/06/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Bryan Delohery5 COMMENTS

Video: Setting a Land Speed Record on a Stock CBR600RR Shunji Yokokawa Honda Bonneville land speed record 635x420

For SpeedWeek 2013, Shunji Yokokawa  set out on a journey to set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but what he had not anticipated were the challenges that lay ahead.

Yokokawa had always dreamed of riding on the salt flats, but it was not until 2013 as Assistant Chief Engineer for Honda Japan, that he was afforded the opportunity to fulfill his dream, which he describes as “gliding” across the flats.

Assisted by a 2-man crew, Yokokawa traveled to Utah with a bone-stock 2013 Honda CBR600RR in hopes of adding yet another record to one of the many that Honda holds. The CBR was set up specifically with one goal in mind: to break a land speed record with a production class motorcycle, but as Yokokawa and his team wuold find out, there is a reason why so many fail.

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.

“World’s Fastest” – Triumph’s 2013 Highlight Reel

10/25/2013 @ 2:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Worlds Fastest   Triumphs 2013 Highlight Reel triumph motorcycles daytona 635x423

It has been a busy year for Triumph, and the British marque wants you to know it. Thankfully, they have recapped everything into an awesome three-minute video. From Daytona to Bonneville, from flat track to road racing, and a little stunting sprinkled in for good measure, there are some good audio/video vibes waiting for you after the jump. Happy Friday!

“Castrol Rocket” Makes a Bid on the 400 MPH Mark

08/30/2013 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Castrol Rocket Makes a Bid on the 400 MPH Mark castrol rocket 635x423

With only minor modification, most new liter-bikes have no trouble reaching 200 mph, provided that you have a track long enough in front of you (don’t be an idiot and try to go that fast on the street). However, it is north of 200 mph where things start to get difficult. As we saw with the untimely passing of Bill Warner, reaching the 300 mph mark on a motorcycle is a serious matter, and it doesn’t take much for things to go horribly wrong.

It goes without saying then that Triumph and Jason DiSalvo’s attempt at 400 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats is a serious endeavor. Piloting the carbon/kevlar clad the Hot Rod Conspiracy/Carpenter Racing Castrol Rocket, DiSalvo will have two turbocharged Triumph Rocket III engines, good for a combined 1,000+ hp and 500 lbs•ft of torque when burning methanol, hurling him down the land speed record course on two wheels.

The self-proclaimed most advanced streamliner on the salt, the Castrol Rocket was built not only to break the outright AMA & FIM motorcycle land speed records of 376.156 mph (set in 2010 by Rocky Robinson on the Ack Attack streamliner), but the team also wants to go all the way past the 400 mph barrier. It’s a huge undertaking, and also a breathlessly beautiful machine. Check it out after the jump.

Video: Indian Motorcycle – The Spirit of Munro

07/09/2013 @ 5:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Video: Indian Motorcycle   The Spirit of Munro indian thunder stroke 111 burt munro tribute bonneville 635x357

Indian’s war machine continues to gain momentum, and the challenger to Harley-Davidson’s throne continues to impress. A new video comes our way, this time building on the heritage of the American brand through Burt Munro. One of just many stories around the historic marques, it probably helps that Burt Munro’s name was vaulted into the public consciousness by Hollywood’s The World’s Fastest Indian.

Building an all-metal tribute to Munro’s streamliner, we can find a few flaws that gnaw away at us as we watch this otherwise perfect video campaign (salt veterans know what we’re talking about). Still, Indian is bringing a good fight to Harley-Davidson’s doorstop with marketing promos like these. If you are in the legacy cruiser market, you might have a tougher decisions to make than usual when picking a favorite ride.

Video: Speed Week at Bonneville 2012

03/15/2013 @ 10:26 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Video: Speed Week at Bonneville 2012 speed week bonneville 2012 635x356

Not that California has any real seasons to speak of, but spring has definitely arrived this week in San Francisco, with sun-filled days and warm nights again on the region’s menu. That means our brief winter hibernation from motorcycling  is about to end, as the revving motors of World Superbike at Phillip Island, AMA Pro Road Racing at Daytona, and MotoGP at Doha wake us from our slumber.

For Asphalt & Rubber, our events calendar for 2013 is marked full of great two-wheel escapades that we plan to attend, but at the top of the list, Speed Week at Bonneville ranks highest. Helping us get in the mood for man’s toil against the salt is this great video put together with scenes from last year’s running. Happy Friday people. Get out and ride.

Italy Gets an FIM-Sanctioned Land Speed Record Facility

10/26/2012 @ 7:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Italy Gets an FIM Sanctioned Land Speed Record Facility Nardo Ring 635x372

While the Bonneville Salt Flats remains the gold standard venue for land speed record attempts, the journey across the pond for European competitors is a daunting task. First there is the cost involved in shipping a bike, crew, and supplies from Europe to America, but there is also the hassle at the border for shipping and customs that can throw more than a wrench in even the most carefully made plans.

At 4,219 feet above sea level, the elevation at Bonneville sucks the much needed horsepower out of the engines of internal combustion machines, and the salt flat terrain is a less-than-ideal surface for traction, and can vary wildly from weekend to weekend. All of this adds up to be a daunting level of adversity for would-be record-breakers, but for Europeans, there might be a better option soon.