A Ducati 1299 Superleggera with a Carbon Fiber Frame??!

Ducati has begun teasing something very special, which for now is going by the name of “Project 1408” on a micro-website the Italian manufacturer has setup. The site itself has no information, and doesn’t even tease what Project 1408 could be, but Ducati has already begun reaching out to its VIP customers, teasing something made from carbon fiber. Sources tell us though that the Ducati Project 1408 is a new Superleggera model, based off the Ducati 1299 Panigale platform. This new superbike isn’t just the Ducati 1199 Superleggera with the 1299 motor bolted into it though, with our sources saying that the Ducati 1299 Superleggera takes the weight savings a step further, with the highlight being a carbon fiber chassis.

Honda Africa Twin Supermoto Concept by Nicolas Petit

The Honda Africa Twin doesn’t lend itself naturally to a supermoto format, though it is one of the most capable off-road adventure bikes on the market, but you have to admit that this photoshop render by French designer Nicolas Petit is very intriguing. Maybe it’s our obvious bias towards anything supermoto that is talking, or maybe it’s that there is something to the idea of taking the Africa Twin, adding 17” wheels, and lowering it just enough that riders can actually flat-foot the machine while sitting on it. Add in some styling cues that scream “supermotard” and you have a very handsome machine that is ready to conquer anything the urban environment can throw at it. Hell, it’s probably just a scary clown costume away from a good time on a gravel road. Right??!

Brad’s Leggero by Walt Siegl

The latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, Brad’s Leggero helps fill the void left behind by the departure of the Ducati Sport Classic from the Italian company’s lineup. Speaking to those who long for simpler machines, at the core of the Leggero is an air-cooled two-valve Ducati engine, which was built and blueprinted by Bruce Meyers Performance. Helping complete the café racer look is the bullet fairing bodywork, which takes a dash of modern by being made of Kevlar. The modern touches continue, with the use Öhlins suspension and radially mounted Brembo brakes. The effect is a tastefully done café racer that not only shines with real craftsmanship, but also does post-heritage right: taking the best of design from the past, without snubbing the progress of technology in the future.

More Photos of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will know how much we like our high-resolution photos here at A&R, so we wanted to make sure you could get a good high-res look at the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 that debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. Yamaha has left its class-leading bike mostly unchanged for the next model year, when it comes to the R6 motor and chassis, which might disappoint some. But with the addition of R1-inspired styling, traction control, ABS brakes, and better suspension pieces, we think supersport fans will be pleased with this update. With the bar now set higher in the 600cc realm, hopefully we will see other manufacturers take up the challenge, and the supersport class will have new life breathed into it. We’ll have to wait and see on that. Until then, enjoy this modest photo gallery.

2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 Gets ABS, Traction Control, & More

The wait is finally over, as the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. As expected, the new Yamaha R6 visually borrows from the recently updated R1, with a similar headlight and intake setup featuring now on both machines. On the technical side of things, the 2017 Yamaha R6 is more evolution than revolution, with the basic chassis and engine configuration staying the same. However, updates for 2017 include a revised suspension package, ABS brakes, riding modes via ride-by-wire, traction control, and an optional quickshifter. While more of a model refresh, than an all-new model, Yamaha has gone to great lengths to improve upon a machine that is already leading the supersport category.

HJC Is Coming Out with Star Wars Themed Helmets

Pardon me while I geek out, just a little bit. It looks like HJC has gotten the rights to make Star Wars themed helmets for their 2017 collection. Right now, HJC is showing two helmets, one that mimic’s Kylo Ren’s helmet in The Force Awakens, and the other that replicates Boba Fett’s iconic lid. Both of these themed helmets are based off the HJC RPHA 11 helmet, the company’s top-of-the-line helmet, which also serves as a platform for HJC’s other branded, tribute, and special edition helmets. There will also be a “Death Trooper” helmet, based on the HJC FG-17 helmet, that will debut in time to milk interest from the opening of Rogue One. It should be noted that rumors about a possible Princess Lela helmet, with side-mounted hair buns, are unfounded and possibly started by this publication.

2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory – Just Add Öhlins

It goes without saying that if the 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 is getting a list of updates at INTERMOT, then the same must be true for the Factory version of the potent 175hp streetfighter. This means that the 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory takes the new fourth-generation APRC electronics package, Bosch-powered cornering ABS, improved combustion chamber, larger exhaust can, and adds to it the typical Factory-spec improvements like Öhlins suspension (including an Öhlins steering damper). If you haven’t ridden the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR or Factory, we highly recommend it – they’re so choice. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 easily competes as one of our favorite motorcycles at Asphalt & Rubber.

2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP – Putting the Europeans on Notice

What you’re looking at is the 2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP, a new edition of Iwata’s crossplane-power streetfighter. Despite being just a few bolted-on parts, the Yamaha MT-10 SP is one of the more interesting machines to debut in INTERMOT today. This is because it pits the Yamaha MT-10 directly against the streetfighter offerings from the European brands – something that was already occurring with the MT-10/FZ-10, even if it was unintended. The Yamaha MT-10 SP though gives the Japanese a more proper machine to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Super Duke R, Tuono V4 1100, and other models. To do this, Yamaha has added semi-active suspension, courtesy of Öhlins. A quickshifter has also been added, along with an assist & slipper clutch.

The Yamaha MT-09 Gets a Facelift & More for 2017

Yamaha’s MT line runs with the tagline “The Dark Side of Japan” and promises edgy and affordable street bikes for urban riders. Someone in Iwata, Japan must have thought that the current Yamaha MT-09 wasn’t quite edgy enough though, which is the only way we can explain the 2017 Yamaha MT-09, which debuted today at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany. Now with a “twin-eyed” LED headlight design, the Yamaha MT-09 feels a little bit more at home when parked next to the Yamaha MT-10 / Yamaha FZ-10 streetfighter. Other changes include an assist/slipper clutch, quickshifter, new suspension, and a redesigned tail section and fender.

Honda CBR1000RR SP2 – Big Red’s New Racing Platform

The current state of the World Superbike Championship rules entirely encourage the adoption once again of “homologation specials” – production bikes whose sole purpose is to be used on the race track. While none of the manufacturers have adopted a radical approach with their homologation special designs, this year’s INTERMOT show has already seen several such machines introduced, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, and the Honda CBR1000RR SP2. For Honda, the differences between the SP and SP2 aren’t terribly radical, but they are more purposeful. The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2 does come with several visual cues that are different from the CBR1000RR SP model: carbon insert panels, gold striping on the tri-color paint scheme, and the more obvious Marchesini wheels.

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.

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda

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

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

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

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

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.