BMW Apollo Streamliner Concept by Mehmet Doruk Erdem

I have had dustbin fairings on the brain lately, and yesterday’s story about golf ball dimples on motorcycle helmets isn’t helping things. From a pure design perspective, there is something I enjoy immensely about streamlining — I think its the sleek lines and low-slung bodywork that hugs the asphalt, looking for any edge over the wind. Despite being something of motorcycling’s past, there is something futuristic about a well-designed dustbin. The streamlining designs that have been catching my fancy lately though are modern takes on an old-school aesthetic and method for cutting through the wind. The first concept to catch my fancy, as such, is the BMW Apollo Streamliner by Turkish designer Mehmet Doruk Erdem.

Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

While we tend to think of helmet safety in terms of crash protection, another aspect, usually overlooked, is considerably important: wind noise. I can tell you as someone who makes his living off riding motorcycles, I am deathly afraid of losing my hearing from bike and helmet noise, and thus always wear earplugs while riding. I have yet to see a helmet on the market that truly eliminates wind noise to a level that can’t cause hearing damage, and of course that comes with a trade-off for ventilation. When given the choice, I’ll take the helmet that breathes, and keep my earplugs at the ready. Louie Amphlett, a recent product design graduate from the University of Brighton in the UK hopes to have a solution for me and my ears though: a helmet with golf ball dimples on its shell, which he calls the Lenza One.

Carl Sorensen Has Died While Practicing at Pikes Peak

Tragic news comes to us today from Colorado, as racer Carl Sorensen died during today’s practice session for the 93rd Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. With the motorcycles on the top section of the mountain, Carl crashed in a fast left-hand turn, known to have a bump on the racing line, near the summit. Familiar with the PPIHC race course, Carl finished last year’s hillclimb an impressive 16th overall, and 10th in the competitive “Open” class on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. For this year’s race, he made his move into the middleweight class, riding on a Ducati 848 Superbike. An avid motorcycle racer, Carl is survived by his wife and son, and will be sorely missed by all his family, friends, and racing compatriots. Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by Carl’s passing.

Track-Only KTM RC16 Expected to Cost €140,000

The motorcycle world is still processing Honda’s decision to make a road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP race bike, and whether you think its price tag overwhelms, or its spec-sheet underwhelms, the Honda RC213V-S is a testament to the engineering that HRC is capable of producing for its racers. KTM has a similar philosophy afoot. Though Stefan Pierer has made it clear that there will be no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8 R street bike, the company will be making a track-only customer version of its own MotoGP race bike: the KTM RC16. As we get closer to 2017, we will learn more details about the company’s 1,000 V4-power GP bike, and its customer counterpart as well, which is due in the second-part of 2018. For now, we get word that it will cost a mere €140,000.

NASCAR Powerhouse Could Takeover Laguna Seca Ops

The operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could be set to change hands, as Monterey County officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the France family’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to takeover operations at the rack track. ISC should be a familiar name to NASCAR fans, as the corporation not only built Daytona International Speedway, but the company’s primary business is owning and operating NASCAR race tracks (roughly half of the NASCAR season takes place on an ISC-owned track). Owning 13 tracks in all, ISC could add another if its deal with Monterey County goes forward, supplanting the nonprofit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which has operated Laguna Seca since its inception in 1957.

Monty by XTR Pepo

The “Monty” is the latest build from XTR Pepo, and as you can tell from the styling, this is the work of the same mind that brought us the Radical Ducati. Pepo has since branched out from Ducatis though, taking on other brands, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Monty started life as a 1978 Laverda 500 Alpino — the name being a nod to the Laverda Montjuic, which was based off the Alpino, and affectionately called “Monty” in-short by its owners. While there are a number of Laverda parts in the build, if you look closely at XTR Pepo’s Monty, you will see the swingarm from a Suzuki Bandit, front forks from a Ducati Monster, a GSX-R600 clutch lever, and Honda CBR600RR footpegs — all in the name of continuing of XTR Pepo’s motorcycle pick-and-pull build style.

How About Some Halo Bike Spec-Sheet Racing?

With the Honda RC213V-S debuting at Catalunya last week, much has already been said about Big Red’s road-going GP bike…especially in terms of how it compares to other halo bike motorcycles that have been 0r currently are on the market. So, in the interest of exploring solely the most basic attributes from a motorcycle’s technical specification sheet, we have compiled a spreadsheet to see how the Honda RC213V-S stacks up against its most analogous street bikes. As such, we have compiled the horsepower, dry weight, and cost of the the Ducati Desmosedici RR, Ducati 1199 Superleggera, Kawasaki Ninja H2R, MV Agusta F4 RC, EBR 1190RS, and Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycles — you can see the easy-to-read chart (after the jump), and make your own comparisons to the RC213V-S.

Report: KTM 390 Adventure Begins Testing in India

It’s been a while since we heard about the KTM 390 Adventure, the Austrian company’s third installment to its built-in-India small-displacement motorcycle lineup. Based off the KTM 390 Duke, the Adventure model has been a long-time coming, ever since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer lit it slip that the dual-sport would be coming, two and a half years ago. It seems now that KTM is getting closer to production, as the folks at CarTrade are reporting that two test models of the KTM 390 Adventure (codenamed KT22) have been sent to India for R&D, presumably as a prelude to Bajaj beginning production on the budget-friednly machines.

Is This What a Modern Honda NSR250R Would Look Like?

The Honda NSR250R is a special machine. When the 249cc, tw0-stroke, 90° v-twin GP bike with lights first hit the streets of Japan, it cost roughly $7,500 in hard-earned American dollars — a tidy sum back then, especially for a 300 lbs machine that made 40hp stock. A coveted item for motorcycle collectors and discerning track riders a like, you can pick one up for over $10,000, the limited-production road-going version wasn’t terribly different from the 250GP World Championship bikes that factory teams were racing. A topical reminder, if we do say so ourselves… So how do you improve upon such a great machine? Ask the folks at TYGA Performance, who have been tinkering with NSR250R sport bikes since they opened in 2000.

Will MV Agusta Be Reviving the Cagiva Brand? Should It?

Talking to the Varese News, MV Agusta Executive Vice President Giorgio Girelli let slip a number of interesting tidbits about the Italian company — the biggest news of course concerns another company, Cagiva. Acknowledging the circulating rumors about the revival of the historic brand, Girelli was quick to point out that it’s not in the company’s current plan, but that the possibility was certainly there. Going further about the idea, Girelli suggested that Cagiva would make the most sense as a purely off-road brand, which would compliment MV Agusta’s pure on-road offerings.

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.