Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets. Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

A Baby Version of the Ducati Multistrada Cometh?

The above photo was sent to the Italian website Moto.it by one of its readers, and it is supposedly a photo of an upcoming new version of the Ducati Multistrada, which is physically smaller than the current 1200cc model. Presumably, this would make the machine in question then the Ducati Multistrada 939, thus adding to the Euro4 compliant engine’s call to action for the 2017 model year. We say this all hypothetically however, because it is hard to verify anything from this photo…beyond the very obvious double-sided swingarm setup. What we do know is that the photographed motorcycle shares a chassis with the current Multistrada models, with both the cast and trellis pieces of the frame matching the Multistrada 1200 models, and not the Hypermotard 939.

Two New Ducati Scramblers Spotted in CARB Docs?

More new model news, as filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that we will see two new Scrambler models debuting, later this year. We come to this conclusion because emissions papers from CARB state that “Scrambler CR” and “Scrambler DS” models are coming from Ducati for 2017, in addition to the models we already have from the Italian manufacturer. The two-letter designations imply that we are likely to see a café racer (CR) version of the Ducati Scrambler, as well as a dual-sport (DS) version of the machine, which we have already seen in spy photos. This news isn’t surprising, since Ducati has made no secret about its desire to expand the Scrambler lineup.

New Four-Cylinder MV Agusta Brutale Debuting at EICMA

You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA. We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale. The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model. To be up front, we don’t expect anything too crazy from MV Agusta for the 2017 model year, with the Italian company still limited in options by its financial situation.

Spotted: The Subtly Changed 2017 BMW S1000R

Thanks to our loyal readers, we were pointed in the direction of some photos of what looks like a pre-production version of the upcoming 2017 BMW S1000R streetfighter (one of the machines we tipped for an update this coming model year). It appears that the new BMW S1000R is going to get a bevy of changes already found on the current BMW S1000RR superbike, both visually and mechanically. Caught at the Oschersleben track in Germany, we can’t imagine how many people walked by this parked motorcycle, without realizing what it was. We can’t blame them though, because the updates coming to the 2017 BMW S1000R are subtle, and you’d really have to know what you’re looking at, in order to see the changes.

More of the Sexiness That Is the KTM Moto2 Race Bike

KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements. Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump. If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship. Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.

Hi, Are You the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR?

If you were hoping that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR would be a completely new machine for sport bike enthusiasts, the following might disappoint you. This is because photos published on Twitter seem to suggest that the 2017 Honda Fireblade will get mostly cosmetic changes for the upcoming model year. As you can see after the jump, what looks like the new CBR1000RR was caught lapping for what appears to be a PR video spot for the Japanese OEM. While it is clear from these shots that the pictured Honda CBR1000RR has a radically new fairing design, a closer comparison to the chassis (see above) suggests that the machine is simply the current generation machine, with new clothing.

Official: KTM Enters Moto2 with Binder and Oliveira

KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (not Tom Lüthi, as we had previously reported) taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco. The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM’s project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP. The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder’s teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.

MotoGP Aerodynamic Rules Published, No Wings Allowed

The aerodynamic rules for the 2017 MotoGP season and beyond have been published. At a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Misano, a proposal from Dorna’s technical team was accepted, banning aerodynamic devices in as general a wording as possible. Wings, bulges, and anything protruding from the front of the fairing are now banned. The proposal was drawn up by a small group consisting of Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and Race Director Mike Webb. Their main focus was to keep the wording as general as possible, so as to avoid loopholes for engineers to exploit. Technical Director Danny Aldridge will have the final word on any fairing protrusion, precisely to prevent any doubt about workarounds.

Two New BMW Models Debuting a INTERMOT

Every other year, the motorcycle industry gathers in Cologne, Germany in October, for the INTERMOT trade expo. The show provides a good alternative for the Germanic brands to launch new machines, with BMW and KTM often showcasing new models at the show. This year will be no different. To that end, BMW Motorrad is already getting its hype machine warmed up, telling us that several models will debut updates in Cologne. More importantly, zie Germans tell us that two new motorcycles will also debut at the INTERMOT show. What those models will be is certainly the conjecture du jour, since there are several possibilities that BMW Motorrad could be working on. This might make decoding BMW’s game plan all but impossible, but we can still give it a try.

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.