Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Broventure Update – Day Zero: Great Expectations

09/04/2013 @ 1:15 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Broventure Update   Day Zero: Great Expectations broventure day zero 635x421

It’s closing in on 1am on Wednesday, the actual date of our departure for our 2,000 mile round-trip ride to Moab, Utah and back…and needless to say, I should be in bed asleep (like Tim is now), instead of writing a damn blog post — it’s been a busy day though, so like the good blogger I am, getting a post out before bed is the last “to do” item on my list.

However, it’s hard to imagine that in nine hours or so we will finally be on our bikes (2013 Yamaha Super Ténéré and 2013 BMW R1200GS) and headed to our first waypoint in Las Vegas.

But then again, considering the 200 miles or so we did in my car toady alone, picking up the Yamaha, getting Tim fitted with Dainese riding gear and an AGV helmet, not to mention spending countless dollars at REI and other venues for last-minute items, I guess it is reasonable to foresee this trip-of-many-miles getting underway shortly.

A&R Broventure 2013: The Moab Expedition

08/29/2013 @ 11:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

A&R Broventure 2013: The Moab Expedition broventure map 635x423

Moab, even the name sounds as foreign as its landscapes are to a city slicker like me. You see, there comes a point where you can only pound so much payment on your daily two-wheeled commute before you have to get away from it all…and with San Francisco currently undergoing its Bridgepocalypse, the timing seems right for Asphalt & Rubber to get a little dirt on its riding boots.

The truth is that I have wanted to go the parks that flank the Moab, Utah region since my early Boy Scout days. Once I got a car, it went on the short-list for road trip destinations; when I got a 4×4 it became the target for a four-wheeling adventure; and of course when I got a motorcycle…well, you get the idea. I have never made the trip happen though, but all that is going to change next week.

Just as Scott and David get back from Silverstone, covering what should be a very entertaining British GP, I will be embarking on a eight-day, 2,000+ mile, Santa Barbara to Moab and back, motorcycle trip. Like most of my foolish travel adventures, my college roommate Tim, a long-time riding buddy and occasional A&R helper, will make the adventure with me on two trusty steeds: a BMW R1200GS and Yamaha Super Ténéré.

SF: Could Andrea Iannone Be at Your Next Track Day?

04/12/2013 @ 5:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

SF: Could Andrea Iannone Be at Your Next Track Day? Friday Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones 13 635x423

Graduating from the Moto2 Championship, which does not come across the pond for the US GP at Laguna Seca, Andrea Iannone is one of a few riders in MotoGP this year that have never seen the Corkscrew and the Californian circuit’s other ten turns.

Not wanting to be at a disadvantage come race day, the Ducati rider will take a page out of Stefan Bradl’s playbook, and participate in a track day at Mazda Raceway this week, ahead of the Americas GP in Austin, Texas.

Big Sur and a Ural T Sidecar

04/05/2013 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Big Sur and a Ural T Sidecar ural t sidecar 635x453

Riding a Ural is an interesting experience. For starters, the Russian-made sidecar can trace its origins back to BMW’s WWII-era three-wheeler, and includes a near facsimile of the German company’s now iconic boxer-twin motor as its power plant. While BMW Motorrad has changed significantly in the decades since the Second World War, IMZ-Ural remains sort of stuck in time.

One could use pejorative comparisons to farm equipment while riding the Cossack motorcycle, and they would not be inaccurate. In our modern time of silky smooth gearboxes, stout motors, and powerful brakes, the Ural T sidecar lacks just about all of these superlatives — and yet, the brand has been booming.

Maybe it is the two-wheel drive off-raodability of the Ural’s design, which has struck a chord with the ADV crowd. Maybe its the machine’s “authentic” and low-tech pedigree, which appeals to motorcycle enthusiasts who feel constantly corned by the growth of rider aids like slipper clutches, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and their progeny.

Or, maybe it is the company’s obscure brand and its Soviet heritage, which resonates enough counterculture “fuck the man” goodness to lure in the skinny-jean espresso-sipping crowd. The answer is probably “all of the above” to be honest.

California Scraps Anti-Lane Splitting Law

02/27/2013 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

California Scraps Anti Lane Splitting Law California State Flag 635x423

No sooner did the California Highway Patrol attempt to demistify its rulebook for lane-splitting in the Golden State, then did California State Senate Bill 350 get drafted and put on the state’s voting docket. A piece of legislation put forth by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), S.B. 350 would have put greater restrictions on motorcyclists’ ability to lane-split on Californian highways.

Introduced on February 20th, Senator Beall’s proposed law would have made lane-splitting legal in only certain circumstances: on divided highways with three or more lanes of travel in the same direction, only when traffic is congested, and only at “a safe” speed.

California Highway Patrol Posts Guidelines for Lane-Splitting

02/15/2013 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

California Highway Patrol Posts Guidelines for Lane Splitting Bay Bridge Lane split motorcycle 635x423

Live outside the Golden State, and you realize that California is a special place, in virtually every sense of the word. As a sixth-generation inhabitant of the world’s ninth largest economy, regular readers of A&R will already have made note that I am somewhat militant about California, and one of the many reasons for this is the state’s pro-motorcycle culture.

Land of perpetual sunshine, abundant coastal and mountain roads, and the epicenter of the American motorcycle industry, California has another thing going for motorcyclists as well: you can lane-split here. You motorcyclists in the other 49 states of the Union don’t understand what you are missing with this simple act, and if there was one single law that the AMA/MIC should be pushing to pass in every state in order to help swell the ranks of motorcyclists on the road, it would be laws allowing lane-splitting (also known as lane-sharing, or lane-filtering).

What is driving in a safe and prudent manner though? A highly subjective and poorly defined bit of phrasing, the CHP and state legislature have done themselves a disservice in waiting so long to define exactly how they interpret this provision. After all, there is no provision in the CVC that outlaws steering a car with one’s feet, though one would think the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would certainly, and rightfully, ticket you back to the stone age for such an action.

Lane-splitting in California is no different, with no working definition on what was “safe and prudent” on a motorcycle, common practice and adoption have taken hold of the two-wheeled art of getting through traffic congestion. Thought originally to be a concession to the air-cooled machines of the time, lane-splitting catered well to motorcycle riders whose machines would quickly overheat while sitting in traffic.

Also a relic of a time when highway congestion of was considerably less of an issue than its current metropolitan pandemic, for lack of a better reason, California’s pro lane-splitting stance persists because the state has waited too long to act otherwise, and we are that much better for it.

However, what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane-splitting has always been a mystery box definition for motorcyclists, and when left to the subjective opinion of a CHP officer, the application of “the rules” can be varied, at best.

As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

09/26/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

As California Legalizes Self Driving Cars, Are Motorcyclings Days Numbered? John Adams 635x798

The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R Mission Motors Mission R test ride 23

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

MotoGP: Lap Record Falls During Qualifying at Laguna Seca

07/28/2012 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Lap Record Falls During Qualifying at Laguna Seca Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Laguna Seca Scott Jones

For those that are not familiar with the weather patterns of Northern California’s coastal areas, Saturday at Laguna Seca was a good example of the foggy morning gloom we natives must endure in order to be showered with the Golden State’s eternal afternoon sunshine. With FP3 nearly delayed because of low cloud cover, qualifying for the US GP at Laguna Seca couldn’t have conditions more opposite than this morning. Click past the jump for full-of-sunshine qualifying results.

California “Liberates” OHV Funds for Non-OHV Purposes

06/04/2012 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

California Liberates OHV Funds for Non OHV Purposes piggy bank 635x542

Despite being the eighth largest in the world, California is fairly upside-down when it comes to the state’s balance sheet. Looking for places to make up the difference, California has had to make some hard choices with its budgets and cash reserves.

One such choice of course has an effect on our dirt-loving two-wheeled brethren. With roughly $60 million in the Off-Highway Vehicles Trust Fund sitting on the books, the California State Assembly Budget Sub-Committee could not help but vote for a transfer of $31 million from the OHV fund to use for in non-OHV programs. Yay.