Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

05/12/2016 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing.

That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense.

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Praëm BMW S1000RR – Getting Modern with Retros

04/29/2016 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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We really like what we’ve seen so far from the guys at Praëm. Their first proper build, based off a Honda RC-51, was waaaay outside the box, and featured some really interesting design elements for us to chew on. Their follow-up to that work is no different.

The Praëm BMW S1000RR is a modern riff on the classic superbike design – think of it as a 21st century take on late-20th century racing.

As the name suggests, the donor bike is a BMW S1000RR, but the styling comes from something you would see in the 1980s – perhaps at the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race, as Praëm suggests in their text.

The “Optimus Praëm” build is a logical, yet a highly more functional, response to what we have seen in the café racer scene as of late, and it bodes well for the future of the custom motorcycle community if more of the same is to come from other builders. Fingers crossed.

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Ducati 1199 Panigale Café Racer Concept by AD Koncept

12/10/2015 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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I think in 2016, we will find that the whole post-authentic motorcycle movement officially jumped that shark right about at this point in time. The 2015 EICMA show was inundated with café racers and scramblers from manufacturers that wanted to cash in on the budding trend.

Now with Deus ex Machina up for sale and no Honda CB350 left behind, the industry feels ready for the next moto du jour – though not before we give it one last go, of course.

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Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe Is “Pinnacle Weird”

11/17/2015 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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If you’re not listening to the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you should…there is some good two-wheeled gold in the show. So, with a hat-tip to my co-host Quentin Wilson – whose new favorite phrase is “pinnacle weird” – we present you with perhaps the strangest motorcycle to debut at the 2015 EICMA show.

The Bimota Tesi 3D champions the hub-center steering chassis design, and is one of the more unique motorcycles in the industry right now. Its design is positively futuristic, so it is a little strange that Bimota is trying to make the Tesi 3D into a café racer with the launch of the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe.

Powered by the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that’s found in the Scrambler series, you can tell that Bimota is trying to latch onto the post-heritage trend that is dying a slow death in the motorcycle industry, but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet.

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Things We Like, Part 1: Honda CB4 Concept

11/17/2015 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

CB4 Concept

Honda isn’t saying too much about its CB4 concept, and we are not sure they need to – the motorcycle speaks for itself. Just in case you can’t hear it, the retro-style standard is an appealing machine, which draws a distinct line to the Hondas of a couple generations ago.

The Honda CB4 concept seems to be built off the Honda CBR650F platform, though the concept is certainly as far as you can get from the CBR650F in terms of feeling and inspiration.

To that end, a single-sided swingarm has been added, the exhaust routed stylishly and polished, and we are a big fan of the solid iron front brake discs with radially mounted Tokico calipers, in red…naturally.

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Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 Concept Helps Define the Future

11/17/2015 @ 10:37 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Ever since Stefan Pierer bought the Husqvarna brand, we have been curious to see how “Husky” would fit within the KTM family.

As of late, Husqvarna models have been little more than recycled KTM motorcycles, with a few minor changes and some cosmetic tweaks seemingly being the only thing that separates the Swedish brand from its Austrian owner.

Part of this is a necessary evil, as it takes time to design and build new models, with the current overlap at least serving to update the Husqvarna line until actual new models can be released.

In 2017, we will see the first truly new Husqvarna models come to market, the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen & Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen. Now we can see a third model, which further defines how we will understand Husqvarna in the future, its called the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 concept.

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Yamaha XSR900 Adds to Yamaha’s Sport-Heritage Range

11/16/2015 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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If you’ve ever wondered what the FZ-09 would look like as a café racer, the Yamaha XSR900 is it. Fresh off its EICMA debut, the 2016 Yamaha XSR900 is the Japanese brand’s attempt to build out its “sport-heritage” line. That is to say, it’s Yamaha’s attempt to appeal to the skinny jean and beard crowd.

That’s about all the hate we can muster for the Yamaha XSR900 though – probably because we used it all up earlier on the Yamaha MT-10 – but truthfully, Yamaha’s appeal to the “heritage demographic” feels a lot more genuine than say, a certain Italian brand that also debuted a hipster bike today.

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Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe – Hub-Center Steering Café Racer

11/10/2015 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Bimota has a number of things to debut at next week’s EICMA show, the biggest being the company’s latest model: the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe.

The concept seems pretty simple, take the hub-center steering design of the Bimota Tesi 3D, and style it to look like the café racer of the future – if that oxymoron makes sense to you.

The above image is the teaser for the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe, which shows a more traditional headlamp on the futuristic machine. Other changes include the use of Ducati’s air-cooled 803cc v-twin engine, which is currently powering the Ducati Scrambler line.

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Triumph Thruxton Gets Updated for 2016

10/27/2015 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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It is only logical that if there’s a new water-cooled Triumph Bonneville T120 for the 2016 model year, then the 2016 Triumph Thruxton should get an update as well, right?

Accordingly for 2016, the Triumph Thruxton gets the same more powerful 1,200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that is debuting on the Bonneville T120.

Triumph is also adding the Thurxton R to the lineup, a more cafe racer inspired design that comes with a larger front fairing, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes. An optional “Thruxton Inspirational Pack” is available as well, which adds a bevy of cosmetic changes, as well as a Vance & Hines exhaust system.

Like on the Bonneville, the chassis and other components have been improved upon as well, though you would have a hard time seeing those changes, as Triumph has been careful to retain that heritage look on the Thruxton.

We expect that retro-riders who are looking for a reliable café racer out of the box will need to look no further than the 2016 Triumph Thruxton. Expect to see the machine officially debut tomorrow, October 28th.

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Husqvarna 701 Enduro Coming for 2016

09/08/2015 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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I had the supreme pleasure of being a guest at the KTM factory last week, touring the Austrian company’s headquarters at Mattighofen.

Seeing some things that I should have perhaps not have seen, Asphalt & Rubber can now confirm two things: the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto looks awesome in person, and that there will be a Husqvarna 701 Enduro for the 2016 model year.

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