A BMW Scrambler Cometh?

It appears that BMW Motorrad wants in on the retro-styled scrambler game that Ducati and Triumph are playing, and is looking to use its R nineT platform to do the job. The scrambler model, which has already been previewed to BMW’s European dealers, would be just the first of several budget-oriented models to come from BMW, all of which would be based off the BMW R nineT. The scrambler is expected to debut later this year with its 100hp air-cooled engine, while the other models, namely a café racer model, will come in 2016. Fueled on by the sales success of its customization projects, Roland Sands is said to be attached to the BMW project, which is logical since the American designer was part of the initial BMW R nineT design team.

Erik Buell Speaks About EBR Ceasing Operations

Posting on the EBR Facebook page, Erik Buell has made the closest thing to a press statement about the company’s cesasation of operations and pending receivership. First thanking fans for their support, the EBR CEO goes on to explain that the company took on too many tasks for its limited resources, which in-turn has caused EBR to excede its abilities and acquire massive amounts of debt (reports put the figure at $20 million). Buell hopes to see EBR through the receivership process, and to “maximize the value from EBR to benefit all”. In typical Buell fashion, he leaves the possibilities for the future open. You can read the full statement after the jump.

Erik Buell Racing Ceases Operations

News being broke by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that Erik Buell Racing has ceased its operations. The East Troy company plans to also file for protection from creditors under Chapter 128 of Wisconsin’s bankruptcy code. Under Wisconsin law, EBR will be placed into receivership (the company will be run by attorney Michael S. Polsky), and ultimately bids will be made on purchasing the bankrupt company. If no bids are made, the company’s assets will be auctioned off, with the profits going to EBR’s creditors. Though a shock to the whole industry, as well as EBR dealers, the news is perhaps unsurprising given EBR’s lack of success both on the race track and on the dealership floor, the latter being the more important metric.

The Handbuilt Show 2015 – Keeping Austin Weird

Just as it is easy to compare Austin to Portland, one can do the same with the One Show and the Handbuilt Show — in fact, you’ll even find some of the same machines at both events (and that’s not a bad thing). Despite the One Show being our home event, the subtle differences between the two motorbike exhibitions make the Handbuilt Show the superior night out, in our opinion…even if only by a thin margin. Nestled in the painfully hip downtown area of Austin, the Handbuilt Show is free to the public, and offers a little bit of something for every kind of motorcycle enthusiast: sport bikes to street-trackers, cruisers to café racers…there was even a slammed to the ground scooter this year.

Laia Sanz Drops HRC for KTM in Enduro and Rallies

A bit of shocking news in the rally raid world, as Laia Sanz has jumped ship from HRC to KTM for the Women’s Enduro World Championship. The move means Sanz will also compete as a factory KTM rider in the various FIM World Championship rallies, including the Dakar Rally, though only where the schedule permits, as the Women’s Enduro World Championship is her racing priority. Sanz has 13 women’s world titles to her name, and she has won Women’s Enduro World Championship for the past three years in a row. Sanz is one of the leading women in bringing females into motorcycle racing, and she she is also an accomplished rider when competing against the boys. She finished 9th in the 2015 Dakar Rally, where she also scored a Top 5 stage finish — the highest a woman has ever achieved in the event.

MotoAmerica Races Will Air on CBS Sports, A Week After

We’ve gotten more than a few emails (thanks!) from American road racing fans about how to watch the inaugural MotoAmerica race on TV. These eager beavers were quick to point-out that CBS Sports Network has no listings for the Austin round this weekend, with only a season preview listed next week, on April 15th. A quick email exchange with MotoAmerica confirms that the Austin round will be shown a week late, as will the rest of the 2015 rounds. The series hopes to change that for the 2016 season. Fans will also be disappointed to learn that the Austin round will not even be streamed live over the internet, though that option will added for future rounds this season, likely starting at Road Atlanta, MotoAmerica’s next stop.

Is Brammo Racing at the Isle of Man TT?

Our Bothans had been hinting at a secret entry in the TT Zero event at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and it seems that entry could be Brammo. The tip-off comes courtesy of renowned road racer Lee Johnston, who tweeted that the weather in California was just fine…while sitting next to the Brammo track trailer, and with a Brammo Empulse RR beside him (pictured above). There is really only one reason why “General Lee” would be testing the American outfit’s electric race bike, and that’s if the now R&D company wanted to go head-to-head with Mugen, Saroléa, et al. Many will remember that Brammo participated in the 2009 Isle of Man TT, at the inaugural TTXGP event, and finished 3rd with a 75 mph lap.

Cristiano Silei Becomes Dainese’s New CEO

Our sources are reporting that Cristiano Silei, former Ducati VP of Sales and Marketing, has been tapped to become the new CEO at Dainese S.p.A. Silei will takeover the head position from Frederico Minoli, who many Italian motorcycle fans know as the former CEO of Ducati Motor Holding. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will remember that the aptly named Investcorp recently purchased 80% of Dainese’s private stock, for €130 million, leaving Lino Dainese as the 20% minority shareholder. Frederico Minoli was instrumental in helping Lino Dainese sell his namesake company, and it is perhaps now unsurprising that the former Ducati CEO has pulled from the bench Italian marque for his replacement.

2015 Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts

Belgian outfit Saroléa is back for the 2015 Isle of Man TT, after debuting the 2015 version of its SP7 electric superbike this past weekend. If you’re saying to yourself that the 2015 model looks very similar to the 2014 model, you are in fact correct, though the bikes are not actually identical. The 2015 Saroléa SP7 has improved aerodynamics (namely a slimmer body), a revised center of gravity (for better handling), a reduction in weight (more carbon fiber and titanium parts), and proprietary fiber optic network that connect the vehicle control unit to the battery management system. All of those changes are good for a 22 lbs overall reduction, but the biggest change though for 2015 is the new motor, which was built in-house and is rated at 150hp (down 25hp from last year’s machine).

HRC Confirms Stoner Was a Candidate to Replace Pedrosa

Casey Stoner was a candidate to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa. The Australian had discussions with HRC about stepping in to take Pedrosa’s place during his absence. In the end, it was decided that a return would not be possible at such short notice. It was decided that Hiroshi Aoyama would be a better choice of replacement in the circumstances. When we asked via email whether Honda had had discussions with Stoner over replacing Pedrosa, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo confirmed that they had. “We spoke about the possibility for Casey to replace Dani,” Suppo admitted. But Stoner would have faced major challenges replacing Pedrosa for the next two MotoGP rounds.

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.