Husqvarna Takes on the Ducati XDiavel with a Super Duke Based Power Cruiser of Its Own

The Ducati XDiavel is making impressions everywhere, most notably with the competition. First, we got word that BMW Motorrad was looking to build its own power cruiser, likely based off the company’s six-cylinder platform. Now, it seems that Husqvarna wants in on the game, with the Swedish brand build its own tarmac monster off of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R platform. At least, that’s what these spy photos suggest to us. The working title on this new machines for now seems to be the Husqvarna Vitpilen 1301, as it will likely fit into the on-road segment that Husqvarna has been carving out with bikes like the Vitpilen 401 and Vitpilen 701.

Updates Are Coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

It looks like updates are coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R for the 2017 model year, if our spies can be believed. The changes appear to be mostly cosemetic, with the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R sporting a new split headlight design and more cowling over the radiator. One can expect changes to occur under the skin of the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R. We would guess an upgrade to the brakes package, with the Bosch MSC “cornering ABS” coming to the Super Duke R, as it is already on the new Super Duke GT. We do know that suspension will stay the same, which is surprising because our next guess would have been the addition of electronic suspension, possible semi-active suspension, coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, but the spy photos clearly show conventional knobs are present on the test mule.

Nicky Hayden Revels in First World Superbike Win

“That’s why we line up on Sunday.” This was a throwaway comment from Nicky Hayden made during his MotoGP title winning campaign of 2006. The American was referring to the fact that anything could happen over the course of a race, but on Sunday he showed again that the true reason why racers line up on Sunday is to win. Hayden claimed a stunning maiden WorldSBK victory in difficult conditions at the Sepang International Circuit this passed weekend. For Hayden, having waited ten years for a vicotry, it was clear in the aftermath just how much it meant for The Kentucky Kid to finally win again. “I only felt confident of winning once I’d crossed the finish line. I learned a long time ago — and if you see me or my brothers, or my Dad — we never celebrate until the bike crosses the finish line…”

MotoGP: Maverick Viñales Jumps Ship to Yamaha

There has been a great deal of smoke around this fire, but Maverick Viñales has finally inked a deal with the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Though there has been chatter on the subject since Friday, the news was confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber today. Together with the news of Dani Pedrosa staying at Repsol Honda, all of these reports should end one of the largest focal points of speculation in the GP paddock. The move will see Viñales racing alongside his childhood hero, Valentino Rossi, for the next two seasons; and it also means things are back to square-one for the Ecstar Suzuki MotoGP team, as it looks for a new rider to lead the project on the track.

Ride in Peace, Rob Harris – Founder of Canada Moto Guide

It is again with a heavy heart that we have to report the passing not only of a colleague, but also a friend, as Rob Harris passed away yesterday, while riding dirt bikes in Ontario, Canada. A Brit who found his way into Canada, “Editor ‘arris” was very much the engine that drove the Canadian motorcycle news website Canada Moto Guide, serving as its Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief. His departure will mean the creation of a huge hole in the Canada’s motorcycling landscape. The intersection of old-school journalism values, with new-school media savvy, Rob was one of the good ones. Our hearts are with Rob’s wife Courtney, and their two girls, Cate and Chloe. Along with the whole CMG team, we will be mourning the loss of our friend and colleague. Ride in peace, brother.

XXX: Team Kawasaki SRC Ninja ZX-10R World Race Bike

I know we have mentioned before our love for endurance racing machines. The FIM Endurance World Championship just doesn’t get nearly enough play to soothe our appetite. It is the last international motorcycle racing series that has a proper tire war; it has strong factory involvement that can see a number of brands winning on any given weekend; and it is also the only true “team sport” in motorcycle racing. What’s not to like, right? Leading the pack so far this season is Team Kawasaki SRC, which won the season-opener at Le Mans, with riders Greg Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive, and Fabian Foret at the helm. Team Kawasaki SRC has always been one of the stronger teams in the Endurance World Championship, and this year it looks like thing could finally come together for “Team Verte”.

The SnoPed is An Evil Villain’s Snowbike

Summer is right around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so the obviously appropriate time to talk about a snowbike is now, right? What the SnoPed lacks in seasonal appropriateness, it absolutely makes up for in super-villain stature, as the modern-looking snowbike looks like it rolled (is that the right verb?) off the set of a Hollywood spy movie. The brainchild of American designer Joey Ruiter, SnoPed features a 90cc engine (out of a Chrysler Sno-runner) underneath its sculpted body, which isn’t exactly going to blow your socks off when knee-deep in the powpow, but is enough to scurry down a groomed cross-country trail. Ruiter’s project with the SnoPed is really a design exercise and a good excuse to play dress-up. We take it as such, at least.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales. So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain. The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing. That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense. Let’s be frank, the idea of using an R1 for a café racer concept is our kind of crazy. But, the design also makes some sense when you look at Yamaha’s recent focus on its “sport heritage” lineup, which is an attempt to appeal to the post-authentic crowd.

BMW Brings Emergency SOS “eCall” System to Motorcycles

In an effort to improve safety for motorcyclists, BMW Motorrad has developed what it calls an “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, which allows motorcyclists to call for help with the touch of a button on their motorcycle. The system is part of a larger push in Europe for an “eCall” emergency SOS program that would alert emergency personnel to a vehicle crash with greater expediency and efficiency. According to the pan-European eCall trial, systems like BMW’s can bring emergency services to a crash scene 40% to 50% faster, and the European Commission estimates that an eCall system like BMW’s could save up to 2,500 lives each year (saving €26 billion in the process, as well).

BMW Motorrad ‘Strategically Realigns’ Itself out of WSBK

07/25/2013 @ 1:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Fresh on the team’s 1-2 victory at Moscow Raceway, BMW Motorrad has dropped a bomb on the World Superbike paddock, announcing that it would no long support a factory team in the production-based series — effective at the end of the 2013 season. In other words, Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies will be unemployed in a few months’ time.

Citing a “strategic realignment” of the company’s resources in motorsport, the move by BMW Motorrad is perhaps unsurprising, as zie Germans consolidated their WSBK efforts this year, with the factory supporting BMW Italia’s BMW Motorrad Goldbet SBK team, rather than fielding two efforts in the series.

Video: Indian Motorcycle – The Spirit of Munro

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

Indian Spirit of Munro, Daytona, FL, March 2013

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.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

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.