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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Suzuki & Volkswagen Finalize Their Divorce

02/23/2016 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The last we checked-in with the Suzuki/Volkswagen divorce, the German automobile maker was ordered by the London Court of International Arbitration to sell its 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer (worth $2.8 billion at the time).

That was back in September 2015, and now that ordered has finally been fulfilled, with Volkswagen completely divesting itself from Suzuki – a move that has been four years in the making.

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Volkswagen Ordered to Sell Its Stake in Suzuki

09/23/2015 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing.

Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night.

Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.

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Mission Motorcycles Becomes Mission Electric, Boats & Cars to Come, Mission R/RS Motos Delayed Until Q2/Q3 2015

09/04/2014 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces.

Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.

From what our sources say, this move will mean that Mission Motorcycles and Mission Motors will once again become one entity — loyal readers will remember that Mission Motorcycles was spun out of Mission Motors two years ago.

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Cyril Despres Makes Switch to Cars for 2015 Dakar Rally

03/26/2014 @ 4:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We had to check the date on this one, because five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres has announced that he will not be on two-wheels for this year’s rally raid, and instead will campaign in the car class with Peugeot. The announcement comes as a bit of a shock, after Despres rocked the Dakar Rally world last year, announcing his switch from KTM to Yamaha.

After a difficult race in 2014, where Cyril still managed to finish fourth overall, it seems Despres is content with his five rally wins, though one cannot count the Frenchman out from future motorcycle engagements.

Signing a contract with Peugeot Sport, Despres will be leading the return of the marquee’s re-entry into rally racing, after taking a 25-year hiatus from the sport. Despres will be following in the footsteps of another French motorcycle rally raid racer, Stéphane Peterhansel, who like Despres moved from Yamaha Racing’s motorcycles into racing cars.

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US Government Gets Closer to Having Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication in a Car Near You

02/03/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Big news dropped today in the world of automobiles and motorcycles. The US Department of Transportation (DOT), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has announced that the vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is a step closer to becoming  a reality in the United States.

The DOT has decided to move forward with plans to mandate V2V systems for light on-road vehicles, i.e. cars and presumably motorcycles as well. The technology is complex to implement, but the concept is fairly simple: vehicles broadcast their direction, speed, and relative speed to one another — 10 times every second — in an effort to avoid collisions.

V2V enables other vehicles near by to gauge whether or not a collision or safety concern is about to happen between the two vehicles, and alert the drivers to avoid an accident. In essence, V2V is the first active safety system for automobiles — i.e. we are now enabling safety systems that prevent accidents, rather than just lessening the severity of them.

We have talked at great lengths here at Asphalt & Rubber about what V2V can mean for motorcyclists, especially as autonomous vehicles use the communications system and become more prevalent on the road. In the long-term, V2V will introduce a huge shift in our driving culture, and it is not clear what the means for motorcyclists.

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Picts & Video of Valentino Rossi at the Monza Rally Show

11/25/2013 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Every year Valentino Rossi competes in the Monza Rally Show in Italy, and The Doctor does quite well for himself at the event — he was the winner of the rally at last year’s event. For 2014, Rossi found himself on the podium once again, scoring a second place finish with his VR46 team and Carlo Cassina as his co-driver.

Rossi & Co. were bested by WRC’s Dani Sordo and his rally-spec Citroen, though to be fair, Rossi himself had a works Ford at his disposal. Perhaps too many wheels, the event is a fun end to The Doctor’s racing season, as the nine-time World Champion enjoys competition in a variety of forms. For those wondering, Uccio finished ninth.

“For me this is one of the highlights of the year – I get to race against my friends and there is very little pressure to perform,” said Rossi. “It is a shame that I didn’t get the overall wins today but I’m proud of four stage wins which is incredible for me. And I get to see all of the fans from rally and MotoGP which is great.  I’m coming back next year!”

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American Suzuki Files for Bankruptcy

11/05/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Certainly wanting to bury the news in the after-work hours, American Suzuki Motor Corporation has just announced that it is filing for Chapter 11 protections, as the American subsidiary of Suzuki Motor Corporation heads into bankruptcy and business restructuring.

Pivoting its business to focus on marine and motorcycle/ATV sales, Suzuki will wind-down and ultimately stop selling cars in the US market. In its press release, Suzuki says will honor all current warranties, and parts and servicing will continue to be available to Suzuki automobile owners.

Today’s news should have little to no immediate affect for Suzuki motorcycle owners in the USA, as the Chapter 11 proceedings are focused more around Suzuki dumping its failed automotive business here in North America, than anything else.

While it remains to be seen how the Japanese company will restructure its American office, the move in fact could be a boon to motorcyclists, as it could mean some life could be pumped back into ASMC. The American Suzuki office has suffered recently from under-staffing and disorganization, and the company could benefit from a proper reorganization.

Time will tell how effective Suzuki’s restructuring will go, and we certainly haven’t heard the full extent of this news item yet. As the ball of yarn untangles, check out the full press release is after the jump. Suzuki’s letter to motorcycle owners is here, car owners here, and there is also an FAQ.

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Video: Ken Block Gymkhanas San Francisco — Awesomeness Tenuously Linked to Motorcycles

07/10/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber readers are an eclectic group of men and woman, and I am not going sully the romance we have going on here by lying to you guys with some sort of convoluted web of reasoning as to how a nearly team minuted Ken Block / DC Shoes / Ford Focus video is related to motorcycles — because well frankly, it’s not. Yeah sure, there is a 12 second Travis Pastrana cameo tucked-away in there somewhere, and that might be enough material to spin-doctor the snot out of this puppy, but here’s the deal:

First, the video is awesome in that 12-year-old boy discovering bottle rockets sort of way. Second, the video is set in my home town, and we all know how militant I can be about the Golden State, whose border I draw somewhere just south of Ojai. And third, the video is an example of great marketing, and it is such an easy example of what can crossover into motorcycles, it pains me that we here in the two-wheeled world haven’t answered back with something even better. Enjoy after the jump.

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Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen

11/21/2011 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Back in 2009 Suzuki and Volkswagen made some headlines, as the German automaker took a 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer. The basic points of the agreement were that Volkswagen would get access to Suzuki’s small-displacement motors and Indian presence, while the latter would benefit from Volkswagen’s larger-vehicle technologies, etc.

Seemingly however doomed from the start, the partnership in motorcycle circles erroneously spurred some interesting thoughts of a Volkswagen motorcycle coming to fruition. While industry journalists spun gold out of hay, the two behemoth manufacturers failed to come to terms on any of their proposed partnership goals, leaving both parties to wonder why they were interested in each other, let alone financially intwined.

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Wherever You Want to Go – BMW Looks at the Future of Transportation and Personal Mobility

02/09/2011 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW is halfway through releasing a four-part video on the future of transportation, which explores a multitude of ideas including infrastructure, city dwelling, personal transport, population growth, and the environment. BMW obviously is approaching the issue with its automotive hat squarely on its head, and doesn’t directly deal with motorcycles, but when you stop and think about it, cars and bikes are wrapped up in the same situation. While the only the first two videos have been released, there’s already some interesting concepts to think about.

While we wait for Part 3 (Feb. 15th) and Part 4 (Feb. 22nd), chew on these facts and figures: over 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, automobiles are parked about 90% of the time, and there’s roughly five parking spots for every car (that’s 1,500 sqft of space just for a single car!). It sure seems like motorcycles could help solve that utilization/space problem.

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