Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT). Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

Yamaha YZF-R3 Revealed – 321cc Twin Coming to the USA

The rumors were true, Yamaha is bringing a special small-displacement model to market, the Yamaha YZF-R3. As the name indicates, the new R3 gets a fuel-injected displacement bump over the R25, to the tune of 321cc. Debuted at the AIMExpo today, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is coming to the USA, with a price tag of $4,990. Said by Yamaha to have “class-leading power”, the new R3 finally adds a small-displacement sport bike to Yamaha’s North American lineup, and makes an attractive offering when compared to the other 250cc/300cc machines from the other Japanese manufacturers. Expect to see it in Yamaha dealers, starting January 2014. Yamaha North America expects the YZF-R3 to be the volume leader for the company in the USA and Canada, and rightfully so.

Ducati Announces DVT — Desmodromic Variable Timing

As was teased, Ducati is unveiling its “DVT” technology today, which stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing, and to showcase that technology (borrowed from Volkswagen), Ducati has produced the first motorcycle engine with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. Adapted to the now-called Ducati Testastretta DVT engine, which we reported will debut first on the new Ducati Multistrada for 2015, Ducati’s new v-twin powerplant can change the intake and exhaust timing independently, and throughout the rev range. This means that the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine can be optimized for peak power at high rpms, while maintaing rideability and smoothness at lower rpms — not to mention keeping with emission and noise regulations throughout the rev range.

What If You Put Dustbin Fairings on Modern Sport Bikes?

I simply love the latest sketches from Nicolas Petit. The French designer is sort of re-imaging a previous project of his, where he designed a modern-looking dustbin-style fairing for a BMW HP2 Sport and Moto Guzzi V12 Le Mans. Taking on now the Ducati 1199 Panigale, Petit has mixed the old-styled TT racer look with Italy’s premier superbike, in an effective manner. We haven’t seen this sort of clash between old and new technology since John Hopkins raced the last two-stroke GP bike, the Yamaha YZR500 in 2002. There are some obvious issues with dustbin fairings. While they cut the air ahead of the motorcycle, the first step to achieving better aerodynamics, they do little to shape the air behind the motorcycle, the second step to achieving better aerodynamics.

Is This How Much the Kawasaki Ninja H2R Will Cost? Nope.

It has certainly been interesting to see the buzz around the Kawasaki Ninja H2 these past few weeks, especially as everyone tries to cash in on the supercharged hype-machine that Kawasaki has been running. Now lately we have seen a supposed dealer invoice for the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R, with a price tag just north of $60,000. Many publications have latched onto that price point — which isn’t the craziest conclusion to come to, considering that the H2R is Kawasaki’s halo-bike project, and will likely cost a pretty penny — though with just a quick glance, we can see that the alleged paperwork has clearly been a work of Photoshop, and not inside information.

Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines. The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday. The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

New Ducati 1299 Gets +100cc, While 1299R Gets None

For 2014, Ducati is giving the Panigale a bit of a model update, and thanks to an ill-framed photo from the Ducati North America dealers’ meeting, we know that the new superbike will be called by the 1299 designation. The upgrade in number caused some confusion though, as Ducati has a mixed history of matching designation numbers to actual displacement sizes. Hoping to clear up the confusion and speculation, we received some details from our Bothan spy network. As expected, Ducati will not be bumping up the 1299R up to 1,300cc of displacement, as the World Superbike rules are for 1,200cc twin-cylinder engines, and are not going to be changed anytime soon.

MotoAmerica’s Provisional 2015 Racing Calendar Released

There is positive momentum around America’s new MotoAmerica series, which will takeover duties from DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing, starting next season. We have already seen the series’ new class structure, which makes significant steps to parallel what’s going on in the World Superbike Championship. Today, we see MotoAmerica’s efforts on its racing schedule, a hot-ticket item after DMG’s five, then six, race schedule this season. American fans should rejoice, as eight races are on the calendar, which reads like a greatest hits album of American race tracks.

Triumph Tiger 800 Gets Four More Variants

Triumph seems set to debut four more variants of its Tiger 800, as CARB filings filings show a Tiger 800 XCA, Tiger 800 XCX, Tiger 800 XRT, and Tiger 800 XRX models for the 2015 model year. The news seems to show Triumph spreading out its middleweight ADV offering, giving on-road and off-road riders a bit more to choose from the British brand. Helping us understand how Triumph sees the four added variants, Motorcycle.com has publish a chart (above), which Triumph sent to Tiger 800 owners as a part of its market research. That chart breaks down the various models’ spec, and which features that would come with as standard. Noticeable across the board is that the three-cylinder gets a 15% MPG boost, as well as ABS and traction control as standard features.

Variable Valve Timing Coming to the Ducati Multistrada

For the 2015 model year, Ducati is bringing a brand new Multistrada, which will debut at the upcoming EICMA show in Milan, Italy. Not much has been said about the new Multistrada, aside from A&R breaking the news about the new model a few weeks ago, so we thought we would update you further on it. Designed to look very similar to the current Multistrada 1200, the new Multistrada will keep the basic profile and design of its predecessor, despite being an all-new machine. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the 2015 Ducati Multistrada though is the fact that Borgo Panigale has fitted variable valve timing (VVT) to the desmodromic valves of the Testastretta 11° engine.

BRD Motorcycles Is Now Alta Motors

10/16/2014 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

BRD Motorcycles Is Now Alta Motors chef brd 635x425

We generally try to avoid reprinting the press releases of companies. Call it spin control, call it journalistic integrity, call it an over-fascination in hearing ourselves type — it just isn’t something we’re keen to do.

Every now and then though, a company’s press release really is the most succinct and well-worded form of the information. As is the case with BRD Motorcycles, which is now known as Alta Motors.

We could wax on about the various branding strategies at work here, the importance of a company’s name, and how BRD’s recent $4.5 million Series A funding is surely to blame for all this…but instead, Alta Motors release just a basic honest answer to it all. Read it after the jump, and yes…the above image was included in the press release.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler? ducati scrambler instagram 635x635

Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs

03/26/2013 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs motorcycle repair price list 635x476

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.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

11/21/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa Suzuki Hayabusa 635x451

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes. I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market. Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.

It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war. It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.

Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.

Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008. It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.

Hey Hipsters, Harley-Davidson is Calling You

11/19/2012 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Hey Hipsters, Harley Davidson is Calling You hipster trap 635x423

Slap on your skinny jeans, and get on a hog, because Harley-Davidson is pitching motorcycles to America’s favorite disgruntled demographic: the hipster. For pursuing today’s young and ironically image-oriented subculture, you can’t really fault a company like Harley-Davidson for this move, seeing as it markets its brand around this notion of conformity through non-conformity.

Copying the vintage art house film style of that we see so often on Vimeo (frame borders, sepia tones, and all), I will steal a line from AutoBlog‘s Jonathon Ramsey and say that Harley-Davidson has nailed the Instagram style on its head with this one…right down to its guitar-string audio track and percolating coffee pot cameo appearance.

Pitching the BMW R1200GS – OEMs, Take Note

10/02/2012 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Pitching the BMW R1200GS   OEMs, Take Note 2012 BMW R1200 GS Africa 635x422

Making effective market communications in the motorcycle industry should be a relatively straight-forward and easy task. After all, motorcycles in North America and Europe have a strong personal component that revolves around self-expression and a rider personal identity. Making things easier, the motorcycle industry is littered with enthusiasts who themselves ride on a daily basis, and should understand this concept first-hand.

The idea that an ad or campaign should reach out and grab the intended consumer is not a novel concept, and motorcycle marketing professionals have their job simplified since they need only to develop and publish creative that would speak to them personally, in order to be successful. For whatever reason though, motorcycle industry marketers, by-in-large, were absent the day they taught marketing in business school…and it shows.

It is a subject I rail on about far too often, probably because it just simply baffles me how it occurs in the first place. How a motorcycle enthusiast fails to connect with people just like himself or herself boggles my mind, and yet it routinely happens in the motorcycle industry. However, every now and then, an OEM puts together something that renews my faith in the establishment, and for a split-second I have a vision that this whole two-wheeled thing isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. Such is the case with this promo video done by BMW TV.

Royal Enfield Understands Motorcycle Branding

07/31/2012 @ 4:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Royal Enfield Understands Motorcycle Branding Royal Enfield Tripping ads 08 635x448

The concept that motorcyclists define themselves by the motorcycles that they ride seems like a fairly obvious notion to us, but you wouldn’t know it by most of the advertisements you currently see in the motorcycle industry. Some brands get the whole lifestyle approach to motorcycle marketing, with Harley-Davidson & Ducati being the two prime examples in the industry of how a motorcycle brand can mean more than just traveling from Point A to Point B.

An integral component to demand generation, the business side of this kind of branding is where marketing becomes less objective and more subjective. To be frank, the reason we have a scarcity of good ad campaigns in the motorcycle industry is because few motorcycle companies are a) willing to recognize the importance of lifestyle branding (for some, it’s a four-letter word), b) willing to acknowledge the craftsmanship that is involved with that kind of marketing campaign (or worse, recognize it if they saw it), and c) are willing to pay for marketing managers with that skill set (they aren’t cheap).

Unsurprisingly, the brands that do see the value in running these kind of campaigns are seeing it payoff in dividends. Have you heard of Russian sidecar maker Ural? How about MV Agusta? Yeah, we thought so. But yet, here are two companies that continually struggle to reach five-digit unit volume figures, yet have a cult following of owners and non-owners alike. I’ve waxed on about how larger OEMs like Honda need to create a more personal link with their product to consumers, so I won’t get into it again.

Instead, after jump find a small selection of Royal Enfield ads from the company’s Tripping campaign. Someone should have checked the international usage of the slogan “tripping ever since” — but that oversight aside, it is a pretty flawlessly executed demand generation campaign. Enjoy, and thanks for the tip 梁聰!

The Four Killer Apps of the Electric Motorcycle

07/03/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

The Four Killer Apps of the Electric Motorcycle mission motors dash 635x423

Electric motorcycles: love them or hate them, our two-wheeled future is here my riding brethren. I can hear the collective groan of petrol-heads as this subject is broached though. Yes, it is hard to get excited about electric motorcycles in their current state, and why should you be excited about them? I may not blindly gush about electrics as much as the Kool-aid drinking EV crowd does, but I’m decisively on the pro-electric side of the debate. Yet, even I have a hard time looking at what is available on the market, and imagining a scenario where my hard-earned blogging dollars would grab an electric motorcycle over its internal combustion counterpart.

Part of the reason is that there is no real appealing reason to go electric at this point in time. Oh sure, you can do your part to save the environment, though the net-effect with our coal-dependent energy infrastructure will still play a tremendous detriment on the reality of one-less petrol-burning motorcycle on the road. That being said, electricity out of a home outlet is super-cheap, out of someone else’s outlet it is even cheaper, and the “where our power comes from” debate really should be looked at as separate from the green-vehicle debate. Of course, the break-even analysis on the total cost of owning a 250cc motorcycle compared to even the most robust electric motorcycle is still fairly dubious — and let’s be honest, grouping the current offering of electric motorcycles in with a 250cc commuter bike is probably a disservice to the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R’s of the world.

So with all the Negative Nancy about electrics, why am I still talking about them? Because there is tremendous potential with a fully digital powertrain, that’s why. Forget the CD vs. tape cassette analogy, this is a Pandora vs. LP shift in technology — but we just don’t have a killer app yet for electric motorcycles. Defined as “the concept that a singular feature is so prolific that its proves the core value of a larger technological system, often driving consumers to make a purchasing decision on the product or system that highlights the feature,” it is clear that electric motorcycles have yet to define the advantage they represent to motorcyclists — not because there is no value in the system, but because electric motorcycle manufacturers have failed to provide the killer app to their core technology.

As it stands now, electric motorcycles are basically conventional motorcycles with batteries and motors that replace fuel tanks and engines. It is the same basic offering that we have had since the turn of the century, except with three times the cost, forty times the refuel time, and a quarter of the range. While the big hold-up for electrics, battery technology, is still advancing rapidly, at the end of the day consumers are still be making apples-to-apples comparisons between internal combustion and electric motorcycles because only the most basic elements of this new technology is being offered by electric OEMs (i.e. getting you from Point A to Point B).

There is a tremendous amount at stake for electric motorcycle OEMs beyond just the basics of the market status quo, as the first electric motorcycle OEM that figures out how to deliver a killer app to the electric motorcycle space, is going to be the first electric motorcycle company to find real traction with the born-on-gasoline motorcycle riding masses. Progressing from immediate needs to long-term goals, I have compiled a roadmap of four killer apps that the electric motorcycle space needs to bring to market. Each killer app builds off the next, and the whole exercise concludes on what I believe is the most important idea in motorcycling. Now, who is going to be the first to make these ideas a reality?

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

No Sub 800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley Davidson Doesnt Understand Emerging Markets Harley Davidson board racer

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.

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.