Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Motus Lands West Coast Dealerships

05/29/2012 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Motus Lands West Coast Dealerships Motus MST factory 635x423

When Motus released the final details on its inaugural 2013 Motus MST motorcycle, we were shocked to see that the Alabama company did not have any dealerships lined up for west of The Rockies (surely the bigger shock felt by others was the $30,000+ price tag). Well that has changed now according to Motus, which has signed up four West Coast dealerships, one in California, one in Washington, and two in Nevada. Sorry folks, the price is still the same though.

Up-Close with the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS ‘merica Edition

05/07/2012 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler67 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS merica Edition Erik Buell Racing EBR 1190RS American Flag paint 23 635x425

Erik Buell Racing had a good weekend at Sears Point, with Danny Eslick riding the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS to its first podium in Race 1, with Team Hero. Making an encore podium in Race 2, Geoff May also put the EBR 1190RS on the third step, this time for Team Amsoil/Hero. With the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS benefiting from Sear Points emphasis on handling instead of horsepower, the EBR has made up a ton of ground in just a short amount of time.

While the EBR 1190RS race bikes were on the track, their $40,000+ street-legal counterparts were on display outside of the Erik Buell Racing garage. Rocking an American flag livery, I naturally took pictures of this show bike. Eye catching to say the least, nothing says “Made in ‘merica” better than a red, white, and blue color scheme, especially when it is laid over carbon fiber. And while I want to love this bike because of its nuances and outside-of-the-box technical design, I don’t.

Trading patriotism for originality, Erik Buell Racing is still pushing the same worn-out Americana marketing plan that Harley-Davidson built for the sport bike company way back when. With two podium victories, a gorgeous product, and a story that is an encapsulation of hard work overcoming adversity, you would think that the folks from East Troy could put away the cheap parlor trick of using Americana to sell motorcycles. One gorgeous bike in its own right, but a played out theme as well. What happened to being innovative guys? Photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the BRD RedShift SM Electric Supermotard

08/09/2011 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Up Close with the BRD RedShift SM Electric Supermotard BRD RedShift SM factory 6 635x425

After launching its electric equivalent of a 250cc four-stroke supermotard, A&R spent a little quality time with the BRD RedShift SM at its future production facility in San Francisco. That’s right, not only is BRD hoping to tackle gas bikes head-on (we hear they only want to race in gas events), but the company, thanks to some clever design work, will be producing its electric motorcycles in the otherwise expensive SF/Bay Area. Instead of using a chassis architecture that would require hand or machine welds (the latter being far more expensive to setup for small production), BRD is using a combination of a casting and milling build process to create a motorcycle frame that is dependent more on machine operation, than worker labor. This means labor costs will be low, and production is limited only by how many milling machines the small startup can keep running at anyone one point in time.

Looking at the photos, you will have a hard time finding a weld on the RedShift’s frame, as the four pieces that make the main chassis are designed to be bolted together. Replacing what would normally be a single-cylinder thumper, BRD’s bright orange 5.2 kWh battery pack is exposed for aesthetics, and in conjunction with the powder blue and avalanche white bodywork, the overall livery hints at the Gulf Racing color scheme, without screaming it. At 40hp and tipping scales allegedly at the 250 lbs mark in its current form (we hear word it actually weighs less than 250 lbs at present), BRD thinks there’s more weight to be lost in the bike as the company refines the motorcycle for production.

The BRD RedShift SM is wearing prototype wheels from OZ Racing in these photos, which are made from forged aluminum, and reportedly are so light as to be practically buoyant. Overall the fit and finish of BRD’s pre-production model looks very nice, and as long as the SF company can keep that kind of build quality in its final product, it should be off to a strong start. Due to hit the streets before the KTM Freeride makes it stateside, it will be interesting to see if Zero can put out an offering next year to match the claimed performance specs from the RedShift. Similarly, it will be interesting to see if the Brammo Engage will make its debut with its six-speed gearbox by that time as well.

At a rumored $15,000 a pop, the price tag is hefty compared to gas equivalents, but that hasn’t kept orders from flooding BRD”s offices the morning after the RedShift’s launch last week in San Francisco. For those craving more photos of the BRD RedShift SM, we have 24 hi-res shots waiting for you after the jump.

BRD RedShift SM Breaks Cover with Gas Parity

08/03/2011 @ 5:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

BRD RedShift SM Breaks Cover with Gas Parity BRD RedShift SM alley 635x423

We’ve been following the guys at BRD since the beginning of the year, and this scrappy San Francisco company has finally busted out of stealth mode with its first electric motorcycle line: the BRD RedShift. With a goal of meeting or exceeding parity with gasoline-powered two-wheelers, BRD’s first foray into the motorcycle industry is an interesting one, as the RedShift line brings true 250cc four-stroke power to the electric realm. Producing 40hp from the company’s proprietary water-cooled AC motor, the BRD RedShift SM produces more power than a Honda CRF250R while tipping scales at less than 250 lbs in supermoto trim (less than 240 lbs in MX-spec).

The RedShift line is BRD’s first line of motorcycle, and will feature three different purpose-built trims. The Supermoto (SM) model will be BRD’s on-road city bike, while the MX model will be the company’s enduro offering. BRD has also factored fleet sales heavily into its business plan, and will have a vehicle, designated as the RedShift PD, that will be available for government and private fleet usage. Point of sale and warranty work will stem from a standard dealer model, which will be aggressively built out over the coming months, and plays back into the company’s mantra that electric vehicles don’t need to be different from gas bikes, just better than them.

Ben Spies’s Track Notes at Laguna Seca

07/25/2011 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Saturday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/23/2011 @ 11:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Friday at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/23/2011 @ 1:22 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Twelve Entries for the FIM/TTXGP Round at Laguna Seca

07/21/2011 @ 10:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Twelve Entries for the FIM/TTXGP Round at Laguna Seca Mission Motors Steve Rapp Laguna Seca 635x423

After seeing a flop of a round at Infineon earlier this year with four, then three entries racing on the two race days, it would seem that some good has come from the FIM and TTXGP playing nice with each other, as twelve entries have been listed for the upcoming electric motorcycle race. Poised to be perhaps the best e-moto race to date, we have virtually all the major players in the electric motorcycle production, technology, and racing gig as entrants for the event (noticeably absent are Zero Motorycles and the “banned” Chip Yates).

Other notable notations include Lightning fielding two bikes, one in each TTXGP class, as well as eCRP entering two bikes in the open class. It also looks like Michael Czysz will be once again riding again on-board his 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc, personally defending his victory at last year’s Laguna Seca gathering. Find all twelve entries for the FIM/TTXGP round listed after the jump.

Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel

03/17/2011 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel Ducati Diavel Asphalt and Rubber 635x422

Even before its launch in Milan last year, the 2011 Ducati Diavel has been the talk of the motorcycle industry since its first spy photo was released. It amuses me that Ducati chose to name the Diavel (say: dee-ahh-vole) after the Bolognese word for the devil. The linguistic foreplay from Ducati is just asking for a response from motorcyclists who feel that Bologna company has over-stepped its prescribed branding boundaries, and sold its soul to the Devil of bottom-line thinking.

While rife with metaphor, there is an important financial reason for the genesis of the Ducati Diavel. As I’ve already explained the business reasons behind Ducati’s choice (or non-choice) to make the Diavel in a previous article. My analysis continues from there, and brings us to the question of: How does the Ducati power cruiser ride, 240mm-wide tire and all?

Setting out to the City of Angels (I seriously couldn’t ask for better fodder from Ducati here), I swung a leg over the Ducati Diavel for a day of riding on some of Los Angeles’s finest and most well know routes. The short answer to how the Diavel fared: damningly well.

Gas Prices by County in the United States

03/09/2011 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Gas Prices by County in the United States Gas price heat map 635x421

In case you haven’t been to a pump recently, gas prices are getting more and more expensive lately, thanks mostly in part to the civil unrest in the Middle East (Libya in particular). While the current sticker shock on gas prices is due to temporary issues, the United States is still bracing itself for $5.00/gallon gasoline this summer, which our friends abroad would love to see in their home countries as they pay nearly double that price for only a litre of fuel. Curious to see how gas prices breakdown by state and by county? Check out this cool widget that Brammo is hosting on its website.