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.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

09/04/2014 @ 2:07 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival? wicked witch melting 635x518

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM.

It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Long-serving staff were replaced, circuits were dropped, classes were dropped, rejigged and renamed, and the manufacturers – or rather, the national distributors of the Japanese manufacturers – were either chased out of the series, or left over disagreements over the technical regulations.

The series reached a low point this year, when the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series held a grand total of just six races. Making things worse was the fact that just one of those rounds was in California, traditionally a very strong base for motorcycle racing in the US.

To alleviate the situation, Roadracing World’s John Ulrich stepped in to organize the Superbike Shootout, a three-race series held in California and Utah, to offer road racers something approaching a fuller season. However, DMG did not have a deal to televise the Superbike series, relying instead on live internet streaming of the events.

The decline of the series cannot be laid completely at the door of the DMG. They took over the AMA Superbike series at the start of 2008, a few months before the global financial crisis hit. That crisis had a massive impact on all forms of motorsports, and saw a great deal of sponsorship money evaporate.

Continental Recalls 170,000 Sport Tires

08/19/2014 @ 11:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Continental Recalls 170,000 Sport Tires continental contisportattack 2 e contiraceattack comp endurance 635x423

If you have some Continental tires on your motorcycle, you might want to take note of the latest recall to hit our newswires. Affecting 170,000 tires worldwide, Continental says the recall is because some tires have had the tread and belt separate, which could result in the loss of air, and thus cause a crash.

Dorna Eyeing a North American Championship?

06/23/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

Dorna Eyeing a North American Championship? spanish inquisition 635x425

The discourse in AMA paddock is palpable. From 2013’s surprise revelation that AMA Pro Road Racing’s TV package would not cover all the events, to 2014’s complete lack of television coverage, there have been serious questions raised about DMG’s ability to market the premier road racing series in the United States.

A constantly dwindling calendar of events has caused many to wonder about DMG’s ability to organize race weekends, as this year’s provisional five-event calendar was marked with the absence of any races west of The Rockies (the motorcycle industry’s sweet spot), a move that would cause John Ulrich of Roadracing World to start his own three-event “Superbike Shootout” series (Laguna Seca would later be added to the AMA calendar as a sixth event).

This year was also marked by an exodus of top-level teams (Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing), as well as marquee sponsors (The Army National Guard and GEICO).

Just recently torrential rain, a field of Superbikes on slicks, and not a red flag in sight caused a dust-up just a few weeks ago at Road America, resulting in a modest investment in publication ink regarding the officiating at AMA Pro Road Racing events, especially in regards to rider safety.

American road racing has long been in decline, but never before has the frustration with the series been so evident across the series’ stakeholders of riders, teams, sponsors, fans, and journalists. The malcontent is evident whenever the subject is broached.

No one can say for certain what form American road racing will take for the 2015 season, but things do not seem to be taking a positive direction with DMG’s ownership of AMA Pro Racing.

American road racing is in serious danger of fracturing if the Superbike Shootout continues, and it could legitimately collapse altogether if DMG continues operating the way it has to date. As if that wasn’t enough, a third option is waiting in the wings: Dorna.

beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015

05/19/2014 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

beIN Sports to Continue Televising WSBK thru 2015 wsbk television 635x423

World Superbike fans may, or may not, be pleased to hear that beIN Sports will continue televising WSBK for the American market, through the 2015 season.

As was the case previously, beIN Sports will continue as the sole-television provider for the American and Canadian television markets, while the beIN Sports online streaming service will operate alongside World Superbike’s own internet property.

Honda NM4 Coming to the USA – 670cc & $10,999

04/01/2014 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Honda NM4 Coming to the USA   670cc & $10,999 2014 Honda NM4 Vultus 16 635x476

This is either the most awesome April Fools joke from an OEM ever, or the Honda NM4 is coming to America. Announced two weeks ago at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the NM4, or “Vultus” as it’s being called in Europe, features a 670cc two-cylinder engine for the US market (the machine seems to get a 745cc parallel-twin lump in other markets), and includes Honda’s dual-clutch transmission.

Why the NM4 gets a capacity reduction for the American market is not clear to us, though the entire launch of the Honda NM4 has been a confusing one, as the motorcycle was debuted as a concept bike in Japan, and shortly thereafter announced as a production model for Europe (now for the USA & Canada as well). Effective communications aside, considering the favorable comments we got last month about the NM4/Vultus, Honda has a popular motorbike on its hands here.

Expect the 2015 Honda NM4 to hit the United States in June with a $10,999 MSRP price tag. You can get it in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Pre-production photos are after the jump, along with the technical specifications for the American market.

Honda Interceptor Returns to North American Shores

02/04/2014 @ 4:48 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

Honda Interceptor Returns to North American Shores 2014 honda interceptor vfr800 635x423

Good news folks, the legendary Honda VFR 800 is returning to US and Canadian shores after a nearly five-year hiatus. If you were disappointed when Honda didn’t confirm the VFR 800 for North America back in November at EICMA, take heart, it’s on its way.

Since 1998, the Honda VFR 800 has combined the seductive power delivery of a V4 with subdued styling, comfy ergos, all-day practicality and bulletproof Honda reliability.

Sure, it doesn’t have the sex appeal of a Ducati 1199 Panigale or the rough-and-tumble attitude of a KTM 1190 Adventure, but what it does have is probably the best blend of comfort, performance and practicality for riders who consider a motorcycle to be their primarily form of transportation.

Yamaha Super Ténéré Gets Electronic Suspension in Canada

01/10/2014 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Yamaha Super Ténéré Gets Electronic Suspension in Canada 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere ES 01 635x425

Yamaha Canada has some interesting developments for the 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré, namely that the venerable adventure bike will be getting electronically adjustable suspension, courtesy of KYB, for the new year. Accordingly, the newly equipped bike will be called the Yamaha Super Ténéré ES, and like its non-ES sibling, will feature some improvements for the 2014 model year.

The Yamaha Super Ténéré will now come standard with cruise control, and will feature an all new LCD display. LED signals have also been added, along with an aluminum handlebar and risers. However, we think the upgrade that most enthusisasts will be happy to see is that Yamaha has coaxed some more power and torque from the Super Ténéré, by making changes to the EFI and exhaust system.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Ducati North America Posts All Time Sales Record for 2012 Ducati Hypermotard SP 635x475

Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

Hell Freezes Over as the KTM 690 Duke Comes to the USA

12/07/2012 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

Hell Freezes Over as the KTM 690 Duke Comes to the USA 2013 KTM 690 Duke USA Canada 635x481

The following news from KTM USA today might shock you, but the KTM 690 Duke is headed to America’s favorite democracy in 2013. That’s right, the previously available everywhere but here model is coming to North America (both the US and Canada), much to the surprise of A&R…and just about everyone else. KTM isn’t talking dollars yet, though it says that the KTM 690 Duke will be competitively priced in its North American markets.

Assuming the US model is the same as the European version, we can expect that 90% of the bike is completely brand new from the previous iteration of the 690. Accordingly, at the heart of the 2013 KTM 690 Duke is a 690cc LC4 single-cylinder thumper that puts out a crushing 67hp and 51 lbs•ft of torque, while the whole motorcycle package weighs only 330 lbs (without fuel) at the curb.

Harley-Davidson Museum Opens Exhibit for Japanese Tsunami Motorcycle

10/25/2012 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Museum Opens Exhibit for Japanese Tsunami Motorcycle harley davidson tsunami motorcycle museum 635x423

Thousands of miles from its home in Japan, a Harley-Davidson FXSTB Softail Night Train was found washed up along the coast in British Columbia. Earlier this year, the motorcycle had floated all the way across the Pacific Ocean in a container that had once been part of a box truck.

The truck had broken apart after it had been washed out to sea during the tsunami that followed the Tōhoku earthquake, and the arrival of the Harley-Davidson, along with countless other pieces of debris, was a stark reminder to the devastation that had occurred along the Japanese coast just a year prior, in 2011.

Bearing a license plate from the Miyagi Prefecture in Japan, many feared that the motorcycle’s owner had perished in the earthquake or tidal wave, and that the Harley-Davidson would serve as yet another story of loss from the tragic event.

However, through the works of numerous parties, including Harley-Davidson and the Japanese consulate in Canada, the bike was identified as belonging to Ikuo Yokoyama. Found to be living in temporary housing in the Miyagi Prefecture, Yokoyama-san seemed set to be reunited with his Harley-Davidson, until something unexpected happened — the Japanese man refused to have the motorcycle returned to him.