OMG: Leaked Hi-Res Photos of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

In five hours the Kawasaki Ninja H2 will officially debut at INTERMOT…of course, the internet waits for no motorbike. In addition to the first leaked photo we brought you, we now have a bevy of high-resolution images of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, the racing sibling to the H2. The Kawasaki Ninja H2R makes an incredible 300 horsepower from its 998cc inline-four engine, a number that is achieved by the H2 & H2R’s centrifugal supercharger. That figure is much larger than some publications were reporting from their “sources” inside Kawasaki — or were just fabricating wholesale to get pageviews. From the photos, we can see that the H2 & H2R use a trellis frame, carbon fiber fairings, and single-sided swingarm, three things you don’t usually see on a Kawasaki sport bike.

Brammo eCruiser & Other Models Spied in Investor Pitch

Brammo continues to build upon its war chest of investment, and has turned to crowd-funding site EarlyShares for help in that regard. The site is targeted towards Angel-type investors, and is along the lines of a Kickstarter-style site for the wealthy and investment-minded. The news that a company like Brammo is looking to raise more capital is nothing new, nor is it terribly noteworthy, but the documents provided to EarlyShares investors are certainly worth chewing on by two-wheeled enthusiasts. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is a diagram of Brammo’s planned model lineup, which briefly appeared on EarlyShares; and among other things, shows an eCruiser model from the Oregonian company. Boom goes the dynamite.

Review: Dainese Made to Measure Leather Racing Suit

Do you ride like Valentino Rossi, or maybe just want to look like him? I ask, because that’s the premise behind Dainese’s Made to Measure program. Giving everyday riders the same opportunity and attention to detail as the company’s sponsored racers, who compete at the heightest level of the sport, Dainese’s Made to Measure program allows you to order custom-fitting racing leathers, jackets, and pants from the trusted Italian brand. The following is my experience in making a race suit with the Italian company’s custom apparel program, and since the bulk of Made to Measure orders are custom racing suits, it seems an appropriate measure for its service.

Electric Supermoto Coming from KTM Too?

We already showed you KTM’s two electric dirt bike models, the KTM Freeride E-XC and KTM Freeride E-SX, which feature a 21hp / 31 lbs•ft electric PMAC motor and a swappable 2.6 kWh lithium-Ion battery pack. The models represent KTM’s rethinking on its electric range, especially when it comes to the current limitations of electric motorcycles, and what the current state-of-technology is in this space. While the new Freeride E-XC & E-SX show KTM is moving in the right direction, the two models didn’t do a lot for our asphalt-loving hearts here at A&R. Never fear though, as rumors from Italy’s Moto.it peg a supermoto version will debut at INTERMOT.

The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Seen in This Industry

I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different. This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

More Details on the Updated 2015 BMW S1000RR

I have to say, I really like the cut of BMW’s jib. Instead of making us dance through a social media bonanza of teasers and trickle-down motorcycle specs, the German company just publishes a press release with what it plans on changing for the 2015 BMW S1000RR. As loyal readers will know, we caught the updated S1000RR out testing last month, which showed a number of subtle cosmetic and system changes to the machine. BMW Motorrad has now clued us into what those changes are, namely a revised chassis geometry. From our spy photos, we know that the S1000RR will also get the HP4’s dynamic damping control (DDC) suspension, as well as new exhaust.

Ducati Owners: You Are Not Ready for the 1299 Superbike

You would have to be living under a rock not to know about the upcoming Ducati Scrambler, Bologna has made certain of that. But as we surmised in our analysis of Scrambler’s marketing, Ducati is due to update the Panigale as well for the 2015 model year. That educated guess, it seems has been proven correct, at least in part. While Borgo Panigale will continue to sell its namesake Ducati 1199 Panigale, the Panigale R model will be replaced for 2015 by the new 1299 superbike. As such, the 1299 will be Ducati’s consumer-facing machine for its World Superbike program — a project that has been greatly affected by WSBK’s intake restrictions for v-twins — thus race teams can expect an upgraded RS15 as well to be coming forth.

Ducati 1199 Streetfighter Concept by Shantanu Jog

One of the reason we show concept sketches here on Asphalt & Rubber is to help churn the imagination of our more creative two-wheeled brethren, so it warms my soul a little bit when a reader sends me something they’ve produced, which is due in part to their daily A&R patronage. As such, A&R reader Shantanu Jog sent us these sketches he did of a 1199-based Streetfighter. As good Ducatistas will know, the chassis of the Panigale creates some challenges for a fairing-less machine, and then there is the whole thing about how the Ducati Streetfighter as model never really sold well for Borgo Panigale. Still, for those who like their superbikes with a little less plastic, the idea of an 1199 Streetfighter is certainly appealing.

BMW Confirms New S1000RR Will Debut at INTERMOT – Two More New Bikes to Debut at EICMA

We already know that BMW Motorrad has a bevy of new machines coming out for the 2015 model year, and now the Germans are ready to admit as much. Confirming that a new BMW S1000RR superbike will debut at the INTERMOT show, BMW has also teased that two more new models will also debut at EICMA. From the spy photos that we obtained, we know that the 2015 BMW S1000RR features modestly updated bodywork, a restyled exhaust, and likely features a mild engine reworking. We will have to wait a couple more weeks to get the full details though, but expect a modest hp boost, semi-active suspension, and the Bosch MSC cornering-ABS system as standard — much like the BMW HP4.

Print Out Your Own Ducati 1199 Panigale Motorcycle

One day, 3D printing technology will fundamentally change the motorcycle industry. Currently however, companies use 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, to quickly and cheaply build parts for development machines. Enthusiasts also use the technology, though mostly as a novelty, which is the case here. A glimpse perhaps in how we will one day buy motorcycles, some clever modelers have “printed” a pretty convincing 3D copy of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Built in CAD, and printed with a Ultimaker, the attention to detail is pretty astounding — note the chain that exactly meshes up with the front and rear sprockets. Forty pieces comprise the work, which have also been painted and lacquered to look like the genuine article.

Willie G. Davidson Retires from Harley-Davidson

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

Willie G. Davidson Retires from Harley Davidson Willie G Davidson Harley Davidson 635x889

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

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati...Ever Ducati 1199 Panigale assembly line factory 02 635x418

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

Harley Davidson Makes the Interbrand 100 for Another Year harley davidson interbrand 100

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

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword Nicolas Petit Honda VTR 1200 concept 02 635x368

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

Valentino Rossi Finally Joins the 21st Century & Twitter Wheres Valentino Rossi crowd Scott Jones

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.

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda

09/20/2011 @ 2:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda husqvarna nuda 900 street bike motor 635x772

Not too different of an analysis from the one I did regarding the Ducati Diavel, the business case surrounding the Husqvarna Nuda is all about extending brand attributes, reaching new demographics, and putting more volume into sales figures. While I will reserve judgment on what the Nuda 900 is as a motorcycle for when A&R actually gets a chance to swing a leg over one, the positioning and reasoning behind Husqvarna’s first true-blooded street bike can be analyzed by us before the Nuda hits dealership floors early next year.

A Swedish brand based in Italy and owned by German company, there can be little wonder as to why Husqvarna suffers from an identity crisis. When the small, but eclectic, dirt bike manufacturer was brought into the folds of BMW, many loyal to the Husqvarna brand wondered and were concerned about what was in store for the company.

If brand loyalists were waiting for the first shoe to drop, then surely the release of the Husqvarna Nuda 900 & 900R is that moment. A departure from a history of motorcycles that like to get grime under their fingernails, the Nuda 900 represents Husqvarna’s attempt at a pure-street offering — a move both Husqvarna and BMW hope will pave the way for more street models, and thus more sales volume. The positioning and branding of the Nuda 900 is also especially interesting, as adding a street dimension to the Husqvarna name is certainly a new dynamic to the brand, but how to do so with parent company BMW looking over one’s shoulder is another affair all together.

I’m Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata, Bitch.

08/05/2011 @ 5:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Im Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata, Bitch. 2012 Ducati Superbike 1199 Mugello spy photo

The tale that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s business card at one point read “I’m CEO, Bitch” is in fact true. Perhaps tired of dealing with investors and businessmen that didn’t take him seriously, or perhaps the young entrepreneur faced a tough time telling industry specialists twice or three times his age how the world was about to change, ol’Zuck was surely responding to the titles others had placed on him. Enervated at hearing phrases like “that kid” or “the Harvard dropout”, Zuckerberg’s “I’m CEO, Bitch” business card was not only about the young CEO having an equal seat at the table, but also about his personal brand, and reminded whomever held the card that were talking to the creator of one of most popular websites ever on the internet.

If we can stretch that metaphor a bit further, the new Ducati Superbike has its own identity crisis in the eyes of the public. Like the Ducati Vyper and Ducati Cayenne that came before it, we were first introduced to Ducati’s new flagship with its internal name: Xtreme. Whether out of the desire to drive webpage hits by creating controversy, or just actually being that gullible/naive about the story, mainstream outlets began using the nomenclature as if the Bologna brand had adopted product names that tugged on a common heart strings from the Twilight faithful.

Cleverly deciphering Ducati’s secret model numbering scheme, more educated publications latched onto the more likely Superbike 1199 verbiage. There was over course precedent for this +1 trend, after watching the Superbike 998 become the 999. Knowing that Ducati would be releasing a ridiculously over-square v-twin motor with the new Superbike, we also learned early on that the new power plant would be known as the Superquadrata, which sounds far more clever in Italian than its translated English. With all these different names being banded about for the same machine, we wanted to definitely put the business card wars to bed, and say conclusively that the new flagship from Bologna will be called the Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata.

Brand Confusion? Brand Reversion by Graham Smith

07/19/2011 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Brand Confusion? Brand Reversion by Graham Smith moto guzzi harley davidson reversion 635x352

Artist Graham Smith is helping play with our brand awareness today, as the British graphic designer has done up several companies’ logos with the name of another (usually a competitor). The effect is an interesting one, as your mind tries to sort out the shapes it recognizes with the name it actually sees, much like the Stroop Effect in psychology studies – an interesting phenomena where names of colors were shown in a font whose color was different than the name. When subjects were asked to say out loud the color used for the font, it often resulted in the tendency to want to say word shown instead. We had the same effect looking at Smith’s work, making this an interesting take on logo design and a bit of fun psychology all wrapped-up into one. Examples after the jump.

Moto Morini Finally Sold at Auction – €1.96 Million

07/19/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Moto Morini Finally Sold at Auction   €1.96 Million Moto Morini sold 635x508

Finally finding a purchaser at its second auction, Moto Morini has seemingly been given a new lease on life after finding a pair of investors willing to back the Italian brand. Buying the company’s assets, but not the property where it resides, entrepreneurs Sandro Capotosti and Ruggeromassimo Jannuzzelli paid €1.96 million for the Moto Morini name, IP, and other proprietary assets.

With both investors saying they have an emotional tie to Moto Morini motorcycles, they also both come with some serious business acumen. For instance, Capotosti is the former chairman of the Banca Profilo and Jannuzzelli was the former VP and Group CEO of Camuzzi, an Italian energy group.

The Indian Gambit – Polaris Puts Harley-Davidson on Notice

04/20/2011 @ 6:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

The Indian Gambit   Polaris Puts Harley Davidson on Notice chess gambit 635x476

Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.

Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.