BMW Apollo Streamliner Concept by Mehmet Doruk Erdem

I have had dustbin fairings on the brain lately, and yesterday’s story about golf ball dimples on motorcycle helmets isn’t helping things. From a pure design perspective, there is something I enjoy immensely about streamlining — I think its the sleek lines and low-slung bodywork that hugs the asphalt, looking for any edge over the wind. Despite being something of motorcycling’s past, there is something futuristic about a well-designed dustbin. The streamlining designs that have been catching my fancy lately though are modern takes on an old-school aesthetic and method for cutting through the wind. The first concept to catch my fancy, as such, is the BMW Apollo Streamliner by Turkish designer Mehmet Doruk Erdem.

Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

While we tend to think of helmet safety in terms of crash protection, another aspect, usually overlooked, is considerably important: wind noise. I can tell you as someone who makes his living off riding motorcycles, I am deathly afraid of losing my hearing from bike and helmet noise, and thus always wear earplugs while riding. I have yet to see a helmet on the market that truly eliminates wind noise to a level that can’t cause hearing damage, and of course that comes with a trade-off for ventilation. When given the choice, I’ll take the helmet that breathes, and keep my earplugs at the ready. Louie Amphlett, a recent product design graduate from the University of Brighton in the UK hopes to have a solution for me and my ears though: a helmet with golf ball dimples on its shell, which he calls the Lenza One.

Carl Sorensen Has Died While Practicing at Pikes Peak

Tragic news comes to us today from Colorado, as racer Carl Sorensen died during today’s practice session for the 93rd Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. With the motorcycles on the top section of the mountain, Carl crashed in a fast left-hand turn, known to have a bump on the racing line, near the summit. Familiar with the PPIHC race course, Carl finished last year’s hillclimb an impressive 16th overall, and 10th in the competitive “Open” class on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. For this year’s race, he made his move into the middleweight class, riding on a Ducati 848 Superbike. An avid motorcycle racer, Carl is survived by his wife and son, and will be sorely missed by all his family, friends, and racing compatriots. Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by Carl’s passing.

Track-Only KTM RC16 Expected to Cost €140,000

The motorcycle world is still processing Honda’s decision to make a road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP race bike, and whether you think its price tag overwhelms, or its spec-sheet underwhelms, the Honda RC213V-S is a testament to the engineering that HRC is capable of producing for its racers. KTM has a similar philosophy afoot. Though Stefan Pierer has made it clear that there will be no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8 R street bike, the company will be making a track-only customer version of its own MotoGP race bike: the KTM RC16. As we get closer to 2017, we will learn more details about the company’s 1,000 V4-power GP bike, and its customer counterpart as well, which is due in the second-part of 2018. For now, we get word that it will cost a mere €140,000.

NASCAR Powerhouse Could Takeover Laguna Seca Ops

The operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could be set to change hands, as Monterey County officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the France family’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to takeover operations at the rack track. ISC should be a familiar name to NASCAR fans, as the corporation not only built Daytona International Speedway, but the company’s primary business is owning and operating NASCAR race tracks (roughly half of the NASCAR season takes place on an ISC-owned track). Owning 13 tracks in all, ISC could add another if its deal with Monterey County goes forward, supplanting the nonprofit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which has operated Laguna Seca since its inception in 1957.

Monty by XTR Pepo

The “Monty” is the latest build from XTR Pepo, and as you can tell from the styling, this is the work of the same mind that brought us the Radical Ducati. Pepo has since branched out from Ducatis though, taking on other brands, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Monty started life as a 1978 Laverda 500 Alpino — the name being a nod to the Laverda Montjuic, which was based off the Alpino, and affectionately called “Monty” in-short by its owners. While there are a number of Laverda parts in the build, if you look closely at XTR Pepo’s Monty, you will see the swingarm from a Suzuki Bandit, front forks from a Ducati Monster, a GSX-R600 clutch lever, and Honda CBR600RR footpegs — all in the name of continuing of XTR Pepo’s motorcycle pick-and-pull build style.

How About Some Halo Bike Spec-Sheet Racing?

With the Honda RC213V-S debuting at Catalunya last week, much has already been said about Big Red’s road-going GP bike…especially in terms of how it compares to other halo bike motorcycles that have been 0r currently are on the market. So, in the interest of exploring solely the most basic attributes from a motorcycle’s technical specification sheet, we have compiled a spreadsheet to see how the Honda RC213V-S stacks up against its most analogous street bikes. As such, we have compiled the horsepower, dry weight, and cost of the the Ducati Desmosedici RR, Ducati 1199 Superleggera, Kawasaki Ninja H2R, MV Agusta F4 RC, EBR 1190RS, and Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycles — you can see the easy-to-read chart (after the jump), and make your own comparisons to the RC213V-S.

Report: KTM 390 Adventure Begins Testing in India

It’s been a while since we heard about the KTM 390 Adventure, the Austrian company’s third installment to its built-in-India small-displacement motorcycle lineup. Based off the KTM 390 Duke, the Adventure model has been a long-time coming, ever since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer lit it slip that the dual-sport would be coming, two and a half years ago. It seems now that KTM is getting closer to production, as the folks at CarTrade are reporting that two test models of the KTM 390 Adventure (codenamed KT22) have been sent to India for R&D, presumably as a prelude to Bajaj beginning production on the budget-friednly machines.

Is This What a Modern Honda NSR250R Would Look Like?

The Honda NSR250R is a special machine. When the 249cc, tw0-stroke, 90° v-twin GP bike with lights first hit the streets of Japan, it cost roughly $7,500 in hard-earned American dollars — a tidy sum back then, especially for a 300 lbs machine that made 40hp stock. A coveted item for motorcycle collectors and discerning track riders a like, you can pick one up for over $10,000, the limited-production road-going version wasn’t terribly different from the 250GP World Championship bikes that factory teams were racing. A topical reminder, if we do say so ourselves… So how do you improve upon such a great machine? Ask the folks at TYGA Performance, who have been tinkering with NSR250R sport bikes since they opened in 2000.

Will MV Agusta Be Reviving the Cagiva Brand? Should It?

Talking to the Varese News, MV Agusta Executive Vice President Giorgio Girelli let slip a number of interesting tidbits about the Italian company — the biggest news of course concerns another company, Cagiva. Acknowledging the circulating rumors about the revival of the historic brand, Girelli was quick to point out that it’s not in the company’s current plan, but that the possibility was certainly there. Going further about the idea, Girelli suggested that Cagiva would make the most sense as a purely off-road brand, which would compliment MV Agusta’s pure on-road offerings.

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs

03/26/2013 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

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In its May issue, Consumer Reports dives into the topic of motorcycle reliability, and confirms what many of us already knew: bikes from BMW and Harley-Davidson were reported to be less reliable than those from the Japanese OEMs.

Interestingly enough however, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were also far more likely to make a repeat-purchase with their chosen brand than were owners of Japanese motorcycles, sans those of Hondas, which scored just slightly lower than BMW and Harley-Davidson on customer retention.

Looking at customer complaints of “major” mechanical problems from the last four years, the report from over 4,000 motorcycle owners confirms the high-water mark set by the Japanese OEMs on motorcycle reliability, but also shows the power of good branding as it translates into brand loyalty and customer retention.

While Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha may be winning the minds of riders with their production prowess, they are losing the hearts of consumers, which is interesting since any salesman will tell you it is easier to keep a current customer, than to make a new one.

Harley-Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100

03/18/2013 @ 3:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Something we missed when it was published, Harley-Davidson has remained on the 2012 Interbrand 100, and even made a 10% gain in value according to Interbrand’s brand valuation. The 76th most valuable brand worldwide in 2009, Harley-Davidson fell to 98th on the list in 2010, and threatened to fall off this list in 2011 when it was ranked as the 100th most valuable brand.

For 2012 however, Harley-Davidson’s brand value seems to mimic its unit sales, finding its rock-bottom value and then making some gains with the slowly recovering economy. After getting a 10% boost in brand value over its 2011 figure, Harley-Davidson ranks 96th amongst the world’s most valuable brands — a far cry from its position several years ago, but a step in the right direction for the venerable motorcycle brand.

Matchless Brand Sold & Set for Comeback

12/04/2012 @ 10:17 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

One of the oldest motorcycle brands in the world has changed hands, yet again, as the British marque Matchless has reportedly been sold. Changing hands from Greek to Italian ownership, the Matchless brand is now in the hands of Franco Malenotti, of Belstaff apparel fame.

Hoping to revitalize the motorcycle brand in a similar way as he did with Belstaff, Malenotti plans at first to build a limited production series of motorcycles, which will draw their inspiration from the G80, Silver Hawk, and Silver Arrow designs.

Vaporware: MV Agusta F3 USA Delivery Pushed Back…Again

06/07/2012 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

I will be honest about my ego, I like being right…but that doesn’t mean that sometimes I wish I was wrong, and such is the case with the delivery date of the beautiful MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro. It is hard to believe that we first saw the MV Agusta F3 break cover back in October 2010, with the Italian company’s three-cylindered supersport being spied and rumored well before even that date, as far back as 2009. Then breaking the hearts of many Italian motorcycle fans, MV Agusta announced that the F3 would not be a 2011 model year bike.

Having issues getting its parts suppliers to deal with a company with a horrible credit record, pricing of the MV Agusta F3 quickly rose from $9,000, to $10,000, and then finally to $13,495 MSRP (Note: All US bikes will comes with a quick-shifter, pushing the MSRP now to $13,995). This of course would not be the price for the limited edition MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro, which was set to sell ahead of the base model. At $27,900 MSRP, the “gold series” F3 has been operating on a similar sliding scale as the price tag of the base model, as the delivery date of the bike was first pushed back from March, to May, and now is set for early July. But wait, there’s more.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Willie G. Davidson Retires from Harley-Davidson

03/16/2012 @ 6:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Grandson to William A. Davidson, one of the founders of Harley-Davidson, and son to William H. Davidson, Harley-Davidson’s second President, Willie G. Davidson is the personification of the Harley-Davidson brand as we know it, and has been the personal link between Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners and the corporate entity.

Both literally and figuratively the brand’s goodwill ambassador, Willie G. has spent the past 49 years helping forge the iconic brand of Harley-Davidson, and has defined the Harley-Davidson aesthetic by serving as the company’s Chief Styling Officer.

Announcing his retirement today in a company press release, Willie G. will stay on as an ambassador of sorts, and also retain the title Chief Styling Officer Emeritus, though his day-to-day duties at the Bar & Shield brand will be over, effective April 30th, 2012.

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199’s race track prowess.

Harley-Davidson Makes the Interbrand 100 for Another Year

01/17/2012 @ 11:03 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Every year Interbrand releases a list of the Top 100 global brands — ranking each company on its brand value and then assigning a dollar amount to that value. As such over the years, the Interbrand 100 has become the de facto metric on the strength of a company’s brand. For some time Harley-Davidson has been a stalwart of the Interbrand 100, with the Bar & Shield brand regularly getting the nod from the consultancy’s specialists — after all, how many brands are responsible for enthusiasts tattooing its logo on their body? However the past few years have seen a worrisome trend, as slowly Harley-Davidson has fallen farther and farther down the Interbrand 100 rankings.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts.

While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans.

While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products.

Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

Valentino Rossi Finally Joins the 21st Century & Twitter

10/11/2011 @ 9:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

For being a motorcycle mega-brand in his own right, Valentino Rossi has been slow to adapt to this crazy new thing called the internet. A series of tubes, the internet has been a remarkable breakthrough on a variety of levels, changing the paradigm of how we eat, sleep, and waste our lunch breaks at work. Helping teenage girls gossip about their latest crushes, aiding in the massive distribution of pornography to middle-aged men who hide in their basements from their wives and children, and allowing no-talent journalistic hacks to masquerade around as proper motorcycle journalists, there is literally no telling how the internet will change our lives next, and what industries it will turn on their head.

Well get ready for another shockwave ladies and gentlemen, as the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, has hopped on this interweb bandwagon with full 0 & 1 force, first by finally creating his own official website, and now by signing up for a thing called Twitter. Tweeting, twatting, twittering so far in only Italian, Rossi was one of the last hold-outs of MotoGP riders to embrace the micro-blogging service (Randy de Puniet just got on Twitter this week too we might add. Thanks Lauren). Rossi’s move is sure to create a stir with the VR46 crowd, as his legion of fans can now take time out from their busy days of lathering neon yellow paint all of their bodies, and hang onto every one of Rossi’s 140 character messages.

So far, Rossi has tweeted about go-karting, his injured finger, and traveling to Melbourne. We wait with bated breath to see what photo the nine-time World Champion first tweets from his account. Bellissima.