At the Seventh Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

What happens when you combine a ritzy golf course, an amazing collection of motorcycles, and an eclectic crowd? You get the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club. Not your typical venue for a motorcycle gathering, the Quail brings together vintage, classic, and racing motorcycles in a setting that can only be described as “chic”. This is definitely not your standard motorcycle show. The event pays tribute, not only to the significant motorcycles from our past, but also to the heroic racers who risked their lives on some of these machines. The tickets aren’t cheap at $75, but admission includes a gourmet catered lunch, an opportunity to see a very diverse collection of motorcycles, and a chance to mix and mingle with a group of very proud and dedicated motorcycle owners.

2015 Ducati Panigale R Mega Gallery

I was recently corrected by Ducati as to the proper naming of its pinnacle Superbike model, now that it does not share the 1,299cc displacement with the other models of that name. Officially the 2015 Ducati Panigale R, the 1,199cc v-twin superbike is the top of the line model from Bologna, and it has some major differences from its “S” and base model siblings to fit that special designation. The 2015 Ducati Panigale R is equipped with an IMU, cornering ABS, and Ducati’s GPS-using data acquisition system — making it a very tech-savvy package. While we were fairly unmoved by the 2013 Ducati Panigale R, mostly because it didn’t seem to offer enough exotica to justify its added price, the 2015 model certainly fits the bill. We have 92 high-resolution photos of it, after the jump. Enjoy!

Even More Photos of the Honda Africa Twin

After a few grayscale photos of the new Africa Twin hit the internet from Honda’s Australian patent filing, now even more photos have emerged, which show the adventure-tourer from every angle…literally. The Honda CRF1000L, as it is designated, will features a 1,000cc parallel-twin engine, an option dual-clutch transmission that has been tuned for road use, and a setup very similar to Honda’s Dakar stage-winning bike. If the hype is to be believed, the Africa Twin is going to be a very capable off-road ADV bike, something that the machine’s 21-inch front wheel hints at with a purpose.

A KTM 1290 Super Duke Tourer?

We have already seen “spy photos” of the KTM 1290 Super Duke based tourer. Some more photos are making the rounds again, you’ve probably seen them on other sites. We stumbled upon this render of the new model, and think it looks pretty spot-on to what the general public can expect to see later this year, when undoubtedly the new model debuts. Whether you call it an SMT or a Grand Tourer, this new model looks simply to be a Super Duke with a windscreen and luggage options — an interesting choice from the Austrian brand. On the plus side, using the 1290 Super Duke platform allows KTM to rapidly produce a sporty touring model, which should help KTM keep a horse in the sport-touring category.

Honda Africa Twin Revealed in Photos

After Honda first released heavily cropped and vignetted photos of the 2016 Honda Africa Twin, we have been wanting to know more about the 1,000cc ADV bike. It helps that a video leaked of the Africa Twin out playing in the dirt, but of course we know that the CRF1000L (as Honda designates it) will be very similar to the True Adventure prototype that Honda brought to EICMA. But like the spoiled children we the media are, we want to open all our Christmas presents right now, so we go digging through the interwebs for every little clue. Luckily, patent applications for the Honda Africa Twin’s design show the new off-roader in all its glory, sans color unfortunately. Still, this is our first glimpse at the final design of the Africa Twin, which will be in US dealers early next year.

Victory Entering an Electric Race Bike at Isle of Man TT

It looks like we were only partially correct in our news that Brammo would be returning to the Isle of Man TT, as the brand’s sister company, Victory Motorcycles, will in fact be racing an electric entry — one that looks like a rebadged Brammo Empulse RR — in the TT Zero event at the historic road race. According to its press release, Victory Motorcycles will field a two-rider team, comprised of William Dunlop and Lee Johnston (a photo of “General Lee” testing a Brammo superbike is what initially sparked this news). While Victory is calling its racing platform a “Victory electric race prototype motorcycle” the chassis and fairings give way to a shape we recognize as the Brammo Empulse RR electric superbike.

Honda Africa Twin Confirmed – CRF1000L Coming for 2016

American Honda dropped a bombshell today, confirming that the teased “True Adventure” ADV model will enter production, and be named the “Africa Twin”, as expected. Officially designated at the Honda CRF1000L, the Africa Twin will be a 2016 model (in dealerships early next year), and best of all, it will be coming to the USA. The 2016 Honda Africa Twin draws upon a legacy of rugged off-road race-proven machines that also wore its name, a sign that Honda intends the CRF1000L to be very capable off-road, and thus not follow the road-going adventure-sport trend.

As Expected, The Scrambler is Killing It for Ducati

April 2015 was the best sales month ever for Ducati Motor Holding, with the Italian firm delivering 7,309 units to customers. This figure is up 29% compared to last year, and tops Ducati’s previous best month ever by 800 units (April 2014 with 6,500 motorcycles). Why the sudden spurt in sales for the Bologna Brand? We have two words for you: Ducati Scrambler. Unsurprisingly, the budget-priced Scrambler range is seeing a strong market response, and of course its getting some help from the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200 and the Ducati 1299 Panigale line. For the first four months of the year, Ducati is reporting that sales in 2015 are up 10% over last year’s models, with 17,881 motorcycles sold between the start of January and the end of April.

MotoGP in 2017 & Beyond – Towards a Brighter Future?

The MotoGP grid is looking in surprisingly good health in 2015. The series has come a long way in the five years since 2010, when there were just 17 full-time entries on the grid, and Suzuki was teetering on the brink of withdrawal. Dorna’s CRT gambit has paid off: the much-maligned production-based bikes may not have been competitive, but they did spur the manufacturers into action to actually supply more competitive machinery to the private teams. The CRT bikes became Open class bikes, and Dorna’s pet project of standardized electronics has been adopted into the MotoGP rules. From 2016, there will be one class again, with everyone on the same electronics, the same fuel allowance, and the same tires. A bigger change is coming for 2017.

Miller Motorsports Park To Cease Operations

It is a sad day for motorsports fans near Salt Lake City, as Miller Motorsports Park will cease operations at the end of October this year, the track has announced. The news comes from the Larry H. Miller Group (LHM), the track operator, which has decided not to renew its lease with Toole County on the property, thus effectively closing the track and ceasing its operations. This news will not affect the schedule of racing events (including the MotoAmerica round in June), driving schools, public karting access, and other group activities that are currently planned at the facility, but it does raise some question marks regarding what will happen to the space once the LHM is no longer running it.

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.

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.

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.

Wisconsin Offers Harley-Davidson Branded License Plates

04/15/2011 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The great State of Wisconsin has begun to offer Harley-Davidson branded vanity license plates to its four-wheeled constituency. With the words “Share the Road” wedged underneath a double-dose of Harley-Davidson branding, the proceeds of the new plates will go to help fund State-sponsored motorcycle safety programs (a worthy cause).

Admittedly, we’re having a hard time with this story. On the one-hand, we love to see that motorcycle safety courses and programs are getting funded. There is a need to educate new riders, and to generally be good stewards for our sport and industry. On the other hand though, we generally frown on the commercialization of public programs, and while Wisconsin is the home of America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the whole thing just feels dirty.

Ducati’s Deal with the Devil: A Business Case for the Diavel

03/07/2011 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

If you had told me a few years ago that Ducati would build a cruiser-segment motorcycle, I probably would have called you a couple cylinders short of a v-twin. Up until recently, mentioning the thought of the Bologna brand chasing after Harley-Davidson riders would have invited fisticuffs in most Italian motorcycle cafés. And even despite the launch of the Ducati Diavel, you can start a heated debate among loyal Ducatisti by bringing up Italy’s latest power cruiser.

Make no mistake, the 2011 Ducati Diavel is a controversial motorcycle…and that’s putting things lightly (at worst it’s a complete dilution of the Ducati brand). If the Diavel is Ducati’s deal with the Devil, then let me play the Devil’s advocate for a moment, and put forth the business case about why this motorcycle had to be built, and what it means to the Ducati brand — minus the pandering to the Ducati faithful.

Yamaha’s MotoGP Team Still Without A Title Sponsor

12/28/2010 @ 7:46 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

After winning the MotoGP Triple Crown: The Rider, Team, and Manufacturer Championships, the factory Yamaha team finds itself in a difficult position looking for a title sponsor for next year. After Valentino Rossi’s departure to Ducati Corse for the 2011 season, Fiat, the team’s sponsor from 2007 until recently, dropped the Yamaha squad after its loss of the Italian rider (Fiat had long been associated with Yamaha because of the company’s desire to woo Rossi into the Ferrari Formula 1 team…that and the Italian helps sell the Italian made cars).

Perhaps under-appreciating the value of having Rossi on board a Yamaha bike in 2011, the tuning fork brand has now been left scrambling for a marquis name to help foot the bills for the next season. Despite having the reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and Rookie of the Year Ben Spies, deals with Petronas, Telefonica, and AirAsia have failed to materialize, despite lengthy rumor, meaning Yamaha’s corporate Blue/White livery might be spotted in Qatar (something reserved usually for non-sponsored wild card riders).

Hello Kitty Oil – Yes, You Read That

06/22/2010 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Branding can be a tricky trade, especially when it comes to putting your mark on someone else’s product. The optimal goal is to find partnerships where both products benefit from being associated with each other. For Agip, the Italian gasoline and oil company, the obvious perfect partnership is one with Hello Kitty, the cute white cat that does $1 billion in business each year. After all, who doesn’t like their 11 year-old Japanese girls mixed with three liters of motor lubricant? Oh yes, we went there.