A Naked Yamaha YZF-R25 Is Coming Soon?

If you believe the reports coming out of India and Southeast Asia, Yamaha is working on a naked version of its YZF-R25 sport bike. Presumably to be call the Yamaha MT-25, the naked bike would continue Yamaha’s trend of making naked version of its fully faired sport bikes, similar to the recently released Yamaha MT-125 that is available for the European market. With images of the machine testing on public roads abounding, the MT-25 seems likely to see production, so the real intrigue will be in what markets Yamaha makes the machine available. With Honda already offering faired (Honda CBR300R) and unfaired versions (Honda CB300F) of its small-displacement motorcycle in the US, Yamaha could easily go head-to-head with Big Red with the YZF-R3 and an FZ-03 variant, based off the R3 design.

Kawasaki Applies for Electric Motorcycle Patent

Need further proof that the future of motorcycling will include electrics? Take this recently published patent application from Kawasaki, that the Japanese OEM filed for back in 2011. The claims are fairly rudimentary, though they do include a transmission, with Kawasaki’s lawyers mostly outlining the basics of a motorcycle powered by an electric motor, of course the news is less about the contents of the patent application, and more about the fact that it was applied for, in the first place. When will we see an electric motorcycle concept from Kawasaki is anyone’s guess, though there are two big motorcycle shows coming up in Japan in a couple weeks’ time. In reality, we doubt we’ll see something so soon from Kawasaki, but if the Kawasaki H2 has shown us anything, it is that anything is possible from Kawasaki right now.

Is KTM Planning a V4-Powered Sport Bike?

Why would KTM be riding around on a camouflaged Aprilia Tuono V4? That is the question of the day, after a spy photographer caught the Austrian company testing in Spain with such a machine. The answer of course points to KTM working on a V4 street bike platform, which shouldn’t be too surprising since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer already tipped the media off to the fact that it is working on a MotoGP entry that would be based around a beastly V4 engine called the RC16. While Pierer confirmed the MotoGP, as well as a track-only consumer version of the GP bike, zie Austrians have been mum about other motorcycles in KTM’s lineup sharing the new V4 powerplant.

Honda CRF250 Rally Concept Breaks Cover in Japan

Adventure riders, you prayers have been answered. Honda is set to debut a new off-road model at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, the Honda CRF250 Rally. Based off the Honda CRF250L platform, the Rally concept is basically the CRF250L with rally-styled bodywork. The Honda CRF250 Rally concept will get its worldwide debut alongside the Honda True Adventure concept, which we first saw at last year’s EICMA show. This makes for an interesting dichotomy, as the CRF250 Rally is set to look like the CRF450 Rally race bike, while the True Adventure (cough, Africa Twin, cough) borrows heavily from the race bike’s technology package. With Honda showing a 250cc ADV model and a 1,000cc model at the same show, one has to wonder when a consumer-level version of the CRF450 Rally race bike will be ready as well.

Honda SFA Concept Gets Japanese Debut

After it first debuted in Indonesia last October, the Honda SFA concept motorcycle seems to be getting serious, as Honda will be showing the up-market bike at this weekend’s Osaka Motorcycle Show and next weekend’s Tokyo Motorcycle Show. While Honda only mentions that the SFA concept is a “street-fighter style light-weight motorcycle with a single cylinder engine mounted on a trellis frame,” sources in Indonesia say the fetching small-displacement machine is built around the 150cc CB150R for that market. Whether this means that Honda will make more premium-focused 150cc machines, and bring them to markets outside of Asia remains to be seen, though it is clear that the Japanese firm is taking such an approach under serious consideration.

Bimota Racing at IOMTT with American Brandon Cretu

Italy’s favorite boutique brand will be back at the Isle of Man TT races this year, with a two rider team that includes American Brandon Cretu. Cretu and his teammate Ben Wylie will campaign for Bimota at the big four road races (North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix, and Macau GP) on-board the Bimota BB3 superbike. This is not the first time that Cretu and Wylie have raced together, having shared a pit while at the Wylie Racing team during the 2011 and 2012 Isle of Man TT races. Though the Bimota BB3 was ruled ineligible for FIM events, the international road racing scene has no hang-ups letting the S1000RR-powered superbikes lineup on the starting grid.

MV Agusta F4 RC Leaks Again with More “AMG”

We are still waiting for the 2015 MV Agusta F4 RC to break cover officially, but the top-of-the-line superbike from Varese continues to make itself sneakily available to the public. First there were the leaked studio photos, which looked spot-on to the photos MV Agusta USA teased us with at its press launch earlier this year. Now, we have more photos of the F4 RC leaking, though with some changes to the design — namely more prominent “AMG” badging, for MV Agusta’s newest minority partner. The 2015 MV Agusta F4 RC isn’t supposed to arrive at dealerships until June 2015; and when it does, it will be in limited numbers. The F4 RC is MV Agusta’s homologation special for World Superbike and domestic superbike racing classes.

Q&A: Romano Albesiano – “We Know It Takes Three Years to Be Competitive in MotoGP”

Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano has big shoes to fill. Taking over from Gigi Dall’Igna, Albesiano must continue the legacy of success which his predecessor left for him. He got off to a good start, Sylvain Guintoli lifting the World Superbike title in Albesiano’s first year at the helm. Now comes the hard part, following up on that success and expanding into MotoGP. A small group of journalists spoke to Albesiano at the Aprilia launch in Milan. In a wide-ranging conversation, the Aprilia boss covered many topics, including explaining why the Noale firm came back to MotoGP a year ahead of schedule, touching on what the new bike Aprilia is working on for 2016 and beyond might look like, and the 2016 rules in MotoGP.

Ducati CEO Leaves the Door Open for a Scooter Model

In a recent interview by Moto.it with Claudio Domenicali, the Ducati CEO fielded a number of questions about the Italian company’s business and its relationship with its German owners (read it here in Google English), but one question was of particular interest: a Ducati Scooter. The often rumored, often debated, and often denied subject is perhaps the most feared topics for Ducatisti, and it ranks generally just below discussions on which oil to use, which tires are best, and how to break-in a motorcycle engine properly. That being said, it seems we are headed for another round of debate, as Domenicali is quoted as saying the following to Moto.it: “a scooter marked Ducati is not blasphemy.”

Interesting Entries for the 2015 Pikes Peak Hill Climb

The 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb may be over three months away, but the historic American road race released its official entry list this week, with some interesting participants for 2015’s Race to the Clouds. So far with 78 motorcycle entries confirmed, our attention was piqued with the entry of a 2015 Kawasaki H2 sport bike by Japan’s Takahiro Itami. Bringing things more locally, Colorado-based Ronin Motorcycles has an entry with one the company’s 47 heavily modified Buells, with Pikes Peak class-winner Travis Newbold at the helm. While Pikes Peak has several “To Be Determined” motorcycle entries still to disclose, noticeably absent from the entry list are many of the race’s recent top-finishers.

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.

Let’s Hype This Bitch! – 60 Day Wait for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200

05/24/2010 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Ducati has reported that the first 500 initial pre-orders for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 have been filled, and there is now a 60 day waiting period for the new sport-tourer. Citing a strong reception to the Multistrada’s “four-bikes-in-one” capability, Ducati sees an additional 500 units to be sold in the coming months. This last statement seems sort of like a no-brainer, after-all another 500 bikes will be sold eventually, right?

Actually, the entire statement is sort of strange when you consider what 500 pre-sold orders really entails in a markets like the United States & Canada. With a plethora of dealers in these countries, the reality is that this statement amounts to dealerships pre-selling their initial inventory, which consisted of one or two motorcycles. Yes, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is sold-out for the next two month, but when you ship only 500 units to the entire North American market, you can almost guarantee being sold out on a bike during its release, right?