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.

2017 Ducati SuperSport – The Sport Bike Returns

The Ducati SuperSport is back for the 2017 model year, bringing a street-focused sport bike into Ducati’s motorcycle lineup once again. As you would expect, the 2017 Ducati SuperSport will come in two models, the SuperSport base model and a higher-spec SuperSport S model. Both bikes use the 937cc, water-cooled, 113hp v-twin engine that’s found in the Ducati Hypermotard 939. Ducati has also used a steel trellis frame for the SuperSport, which looks very similar to the one used on the current Monster line. Obviously, the front fairing takes some cues from the Panigale superbike. Ducati’s focus is for the SuperSport to augment its street lineup with something sporty that could go on the race track, but would be more at home on twisty roads, even with a passenger on the back.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS


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 Beeler49 COMMENTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

S1000RR Still BMW’s Top-Selling Bike in the USA

01/13/2012 @ 3:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad crushed it last year by posting its best sales year ever, and finishing in sales 6.4% over 2010. With the United States being one of BMW’s largest motorcycle markets, it comes as no surprise then that the German brand posted strong sales here in the US. Up 7.4% over last year, BMW Motorrad USA continues to weather the rough economy for the Bavarians, which is perhaps unsurprising considering how zie Germans have faired the past few years.

What is surprising though is which model topped BMW’s sales sheets, and in case you are blind and didn’t see this story’s headline, it was not the venerable GS. Taking the superbike fight straight to the Japan’s backyard, the BMW S1000RR again dominated sport bike sales again in 2011, and was BMW’s top-selling model across its whole motorcycle line-up (I’d love to see the profits per model on this though). Proof that when German engineering is coupled with Japanese pricing a consumer hit is born, the S1000RR should continue to be a potent bike in 2012, as BMW Motorrad has given the liter bike a mild update for its third year of production.