Confederate P51 Combat Fighter, Second Generation

Confederate Motors is making some of the most intriguing and evocative custom motorcycles on the market right now, and the company’s second-generation Confederate P51 Combat Fighter is no different. Confederate says that the G2 P51 Combat Fighter draws inspiration from the “1960’s rebel, anti-hero and the stripped, raw, chopper he rode.” The custom certainly is sinister in its look, especially in the blacked-out version. Oh, did we mention is boasts over 200hp at the rear wheel? Like all Confederate machines, these P51 Combat Fighters will be bespoke to each owner, of which there will be only 61 units made. MSRP for the blonde model is is $113,900 (30 units in total), while the brunette will cost you $119,500 (31 units to be produced). More photos and details after the jump.

New Belt-Driven Ducati Diavel Being Developed

A new Ducati Diavel has been caught by spy photographers, making this the first proper “leak” ahead of November’s EICMA show. Though keeping the overall aesthetic of the Ducati Diavel in place, the model has some clear visual and mechanic differences. Namely, a belt drive…yes, you read that right. Other changes include a feet-forward seating position, revised trellis chassis, and likely Ducati’s Testastretta DVT engine with variable valve technology. The switch from Euro 3 to Euro 4 emissions standards at the end of 2016 almost assure the DVT engine permeating its way into Ducati’s current lineup.It’s not certain how close to the production model this belt-driven Diavel is, though it’s clear that Ducati is courting the Harley-Davidson crowd.

Some Curious Details of That Stolen Victory TT Race Bike

A month ago, the Victory TT electric race bike was stolen from the Brammo’s headquarters in Talent, Oregon. Thankfully, the bike was recovered quickly, though it suffered some damage to the bodywork, and the rear wheel was removed. Two suspects were arrested in conjunction with the theft, and currently are out on $25,000 bail bonds. We will have to let the great wheel of justice sort out the facts, and awaits the two suspects in question. While one would likely not call the legal process entertaining, there are some amusing facts at issue to this case.

Yamaha “YZF-R1S” Spied in CARB Documents

When the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 first broke cover last year, it was with two model designations: the YZF-R1M and YZF-R1S. Obviously, only one of those machines has come to market, which is peculiar since Yamaha went to some trouble to register both names with the USPTO. What happened to the YZF-R1S is up for conjecture, though it does seem the model, whatever it may be, is destined to arrive in the US market, as the model name has been spotted in documents filed by Yamaha with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It’s possible that all this ado about CARB documents and a third R1 model is not much at all, and that the reality is that the “YZF-R1S” has been with us all along.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Scrambler by Holographic Hammer

Taking a superbike off-road isn’t the dumbest thing we’ve ever done, but too many it certainly is sacrilegious. The truth is, the Venn diagram of motorcycles and their capabilities for different uses has a lot more overlap than riders are willing to admit. That’s why when we see our friends at Holographic Hammer working on a scrambler model based off a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R we get a little excited. With enough suspension travel, bash plates, and right-handed traction control, there’s no reason that a ZX-10R can’t be the basis for a fun dual-sport. And naturally, the talents at HH are going to make the project look amazing, so what’s the rub? Think differently, and have a brappy day – we say!

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Now Canceled

After being a tentative “go” for racing last week, the 2015 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has now been canceled because of conditions on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The announcement comes after rains in the Salt Lake City, Utah area put water on the salt flat racing course, and now currently half an inch of water sits on what the BMST calls its “Mountain Course” area. With the salt not likely to dry as quickly as normal, BMST officials couldn’t find a suitable place to relocate the Mountain Course, and in addition to that problem the international “Long Course” was not ideal over its entire length, with its quality a concern for BMST officials as well.Making matters worse, damage from the 2014 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has yet to heal on the salt flats.

Some of That 30th Anniversary Suzuki GSX-RR Goodness

I’m not gonna lie, we sorta dropped the ball when it came to sharing with you the 30th anniversary livery that Team Suzuki Ecstar is rocking in MotoGP. If anyone asks, it’s all Tony’s fault. Totally on him. Like, for reals…all Tony. Bad Tony! Bad! While Tony works on a personal apology note, hand-written naturally, for each and every one of you, we’ve got a small collection of his photos from Sachsenring and Indianapolis of Suzuki’s tribute to the GSX-R line. We think it’s pretty fetching, which only adds to the fact that the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike is one of the best looking machines on the grid. I actually had a dream about it last night…I’m not ready to talk about it. Photos after the jump, ok? Enjoy! And Tony, I want those notes on my desk by Monday. Chop! Chop!

Is The Honda RC213V-S Really Your Dream Bike?

Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul. From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears. The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S.

E-Raw Electric Motorcycle Concept by Expemotion

Over the past few years, the electric motorcycle segment has been a playground for industrial designers to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to challenging traditional motorcycle design. The Mission One, MotoCzysz E1pc, and Xenophya Design EV-0RR come to mind when thinking about the more interesting design experiments we’ve seen from the E2V crowd, though there are certainly others we are missing. The Expemotion E-Raw concept reminds us of those earlier bikes, where the design conventions of the internal combustion crowd are deemed irrelevant for an electric two-wheeler. Maybe that’s why the E-Raw has a laminated wood seat.

There’s So Much “Zef” in this Triumph Tiger Explorer

This video, “Tetra Vaal” by Neill Blomkamp (of District 9 & Elysium fame), just recently became the launching point for the box-office buster Chappie. The feature film is a bit painful, especially if you’re not into the whole “zef rap” scene (I honestly wouldn’t click that link, NSFW). But, the movie touches on some interesting nerdy points, such as artificial intelligence and generally how messed up South Africa is, as a country. This discussion of special effects, musical tastes, and semi-opinionated geo-politics is all necessary and relevant because of a Triumph Tiger Explorer concept inked by Jakusa Design, which riffs heavily on the Chappie’s namesake character.

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

harley-davidson-interbrand-100

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.