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.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

TTXGP: Barnes Takes Lightning to Pole Position During Qualifying, While Brammo Sends Another Steve to the Medic

05/05/2012 @ 11:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The first North American TTXGP round is this weekend, piggybacking off AMA Pro Racing’s stop at Infineon RacewaySears Point. Lightning has been quietly putting in impressive lap times this year. On the #80 bike is veteran Banana rider Michael Barnes, whose 1’47 lap times would place him in the back third of the AMA Supersport class this weekend. Meanwhile on the #89 bike is WERA top-man Tim Hunt, who has had the dubious task of learning Sears Point on a 240hp machine. Hunt’s times have been seven to eight seconds off Barnes, though were ahead of Rapp’s before his crash.

While Lightning has shown considerably more polish than in past rounds, the team has had its own setbacks with reliability, including one incident which saw the chain adjuster bolts on the Lightning Mk. II sheer apart, dropping the chain off the sprocket, and locking up the rear wheel of Barney’s bike. Barnes was not pleased with this, but fared better than the two Steve’s on-board the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR.

Up-Close with the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR

05/04/2012 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brammo is back for electric motorcycle racing in the North American TTXGP series, as the Ashland-based company is set to defend it’s #1 plate this year with Steve Atlas on board ( Shelina Moreda is slated to join the team later in the season). Gaining a title sponsorship from Icon, Brammo arrived at Infineon Raceway Sears Point with some edgy graphics on the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR. Dropping roughly 35 lbs in weight, and gaining roughly 50hp over the bike they ran at last year’s season opener, Brammo is making most of those gains in its revised motor and power inverter for the newest Empulse RR.

The chassis is noticeably the same to last year’s bike, and sans some minor improvements here and there, the bike is technically very similar to last year’s lap-record setter. Unlike the Brammo Empulse R that will debut Tuesday next week, the Empulse RR does not use the six-speed IET gearbox. Brammo’s Brian Wismann explained to A&R that the high-voltage system that the Empulse RR uses does not benefit as much from the IET gearbox as the lower voltage street bike does, and thus hasn’t made it to the race bike…yet.

With these pictures taken just a couple hours before Steve Atlas had a highside crash at Sears Point, we imagine the 2012 Brammo Empulse RR doesn’t look as good as when we last saw it. Atlas took a pretty big hit, but is said to be ok (UPDATE: Atlas has six fractured vertebrae, and will be out for the weekend). The bike on the other hand…well, hopefully the Brammo crew can get it ready in time for this weekend’s two TTXGP races in wine country. More drool material after the jump.

Sticker Shock: Brammo Empulse R Priced at $20,000?

05/03/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A Bothan spy just dropped off a note in the A&R inbox saying that the soon-to-be-released and recently-spotted Brammo Empulse R is to come with quite the price tag. Said to be priced just shy of $20,000, the R-spec Empulse would be commanding a $6,000 premium over the $14,000 MSRP that was quoted when the Brammo Empulse first hit the newswires 22 months ago. Considering the $13,995 price tag offered by the Zero S ZF9, the $20,000 figure being bantered about sounds very high to our ears, at least initially.

Spy Photos: Brammo Empulse R Caught in the Wild

05/01/2012 @ 10:49 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Next week we will get to see the Brammo Empulse R officially and publicly unveiled in Los Angeles, but the eagle-eyed lens of Brenda Priddy & Co. and the pages of AutoMoto have caught the electric motorcycle during a movie shoot for its upcoming launch. With an “R” emblazoned on the side, you can be sure this Empulse R and not the base model Empulse we have looked at for the past 22 months, though the two bikes seem to share a bit of similarity.

Zero Is Working on a Brammo-Killer for 2013

04/20/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

The nearly two-year wait for the Brammo Empulse is nearly over, as the Ashland-based company is set to debut the Brammo Empulse and Brammo Empulse R in Los Angeles (and online) May 8th. It should come as no surprise then that the A&R Bothan spy network is picking up on murmurings from Zero Motorcycles, and that the Californian company is working on an Empulse-killer for the 2013 model year.

Said to be building a proper electric sport bike, as well as suitable electric dirt bike package, Zero is seemingly finally on the verge of sunsetting its current motorcycle designs for more mature motorcycle offerings, and is putting companies like Brammo and BRD squarely in its sights.

2012 Brammo Empulse R Technical Specifications Revealed

04/18/2012 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Right on schedule, Brammo has released the technical specifications of the Brammo Empulse & Brammo Empulse R electric street bikes. Featuring a 54hp water-cooled Permanent Magnet AC (PMAC) motor, the Empulse will come with a 10 kWh (9.3 kWh nominal) battery pack, and of course the Oregonian company’s six-speed gearbox. With fully-adjustable Marzoochi front forks, a fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock, Brembo brakes, & Marchesini wheels, Brammo has included some nice kit on the Empulse, though the company hasn’t tipped off to what the “R” designation will mean for consumers.

Our best guess is the Brammo Empulse will be a naked version that is very similar to the Empulse prototype we’ve seen from day one, with some cosmetic updates of course, while the Brammo Empulse R will be a fully-faired sport bike that strikes a similar line to the Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike.

Asphalt & Rubber‘s Bothan spies report that the gearbox works incredibly well, allowing the Empulse to operate just like a standard street bike with shifting and gearing control. There’s still some debate as to whether electrics need trasmissions, let alone close-ratio six-speed transmissions, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.

Still not releasing any images of the new Empulse and Empulse R, Brammo will be taking the wraps off its latest bike on May 8th at an event to be held in Los Angeles. The unveiling will also be live-streamed on the web as well. Click after the jump for the full technical specifications of the 2012 Brammo Empulse R.

Don’t Call It Vaporware – Brammo Empulse Coming May 8th

04/11/2012 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Taking nearly two years to go from vaporware to reality, Brammo has announced that its true second model in its lineup is finally ready for primetime. Set to be unveiled May 8th, with technical details to be released April 18th, the Brammo Empulse will finally become a consumer reality, as well as Brammo’s a six-speed gearbox.

Touting a 100 mph top speed and 100 mile range, the Brammo Empulse on paper should be a market-leading machine (the Zero S tops out at 88mph and 114 mile range). Though it will remain to be seen under what conditions those figures are achieved (Zero’s range figure is at in-town speeds only), as over-promising has been the calling-card of the electric motorcycle manufacturers thus far.

Brammo Empulse Spotted “Testing” Six-Speed Gearbox

01/03/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

Teased, delayed, and dismayed, fans of the Empulse should be able finally to get their hands on the Brammo Empulse in 2012, as the Oregonian company has been busy finalizing the Empulse’s design and technical specifications for its street bike release. Rumored to incorporate the six-speed SMRE-designed integrated electric transmission (IET) found on the Brammo Engage and Brammo Encite, a video has cropped-up that shows a test mule Brammo Empulse with the IET gearbox fitted to it. Naturally one of the testing requirements is a fat parking lot burnout.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Polaris Invests in Brammo’s $28 Million Series B Round

10/26/2011 @ 7:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

After being courted by several major OEMs according to our sources, electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo received a minority investment by  Polaris Industries today. The move will give Polaris access to Brammo’s proprietary electric powertrain technology, and positions the large OEM to enter further into the electric motorcycle market as a strategic partner to the Oregonian company. In the process of this investment, Brammo has also closed a $28 million Series B round of funding that also included contributions from repeat investor Alpine Energy and first-time Brammo investor NorthPort Investments, LLC.

Polaris has already been aggressively expanding into new market segments this year by buying both Indian Motorcycles and electric car manufacturer GEM. Polaris’s investment in Brammo, the two companies will form a strategic partnership that will presumably see Brammo’s electric drivetrain in different Polaris Industry products, which gives the American company a formidable ally in the move to electric-powered vehicles. For Brammo, the news bodes well as it not only means an infusion of fresh capital, a roadmap to further funding, and a step closer to a possible exit, but Polaris will also be sharing its vast array of technical, sales, and support knowledge to the electric startup.