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.

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Concept

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna 701 supermoto, the Swedish brand had two street concepts to unveil at the EICMA show. First up is the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen concept, which is a café racer inspired model. With a 373cc single-cylidner thumper at its core, the Vitpilen (Swedish for White Arrow) sports an attractive and clean design. A modern riff on the 1953 Husqvarna Silverpilen, the idea behind the Husqvarna Vitpilen is that less is more. Making a modest 43hp, the Vitpilen weights a paltry 297 lbs (135kg). Clever details abound on the Vitpilen, and we particularly enjoy the high-tech LED meets retro-scrambler headlight design that sits prominently at the front of the bike.

KTM Reconfirms “Faired” and “Travel” Duke 390 Models

12/03/2012 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

KTM Reconfirms Faired and Travel Duke 390 Models 2013 ktm moto3 250 gpr production racer 635x423

For some time now, we have known that KTM intended to bring a 300cc-class version of its KTM 125 Duke motorcycle to market, thanks primarily to a leaked product road map that covered the Austrian company’s product line-up clear through the 2014 model year.

Slotted to bring the KTM 390 Duke to the US market this coming spring, the leaked road map has so far proven to be accurate, and has two interesting machines listed for 2014: the KTM Moto3 350 & KTM Enduro 350.

Now confirmed by KTM’s CEO Stefan Pierer, KTM will debut a “faired” model (the KTM Moto3 350) and a “travel” model (KTM Enduro 350), which are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, and will share the bike’s 375cc single-cylinder engine.

The 2012 Macau GP with Tony Goldsmith

11/20/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Tony Goldsmith10 COMMENTS

Michael Rutter Claims Eighth Macau GP Win

11/18/2012 @ 7:53 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Michael Rutter Claims Eighth Macau GP Win Michael Rutter Macau GP CGPM 635x423

John McGuinness might be the King of the Mountain at the Isle of Man, but Michael Rutter is the King of the Streets at Macau. After leading throughout the qualifying and practice sessions, Rutter rode a dominant 10 lap race to claim his eighth win at the Macau GP.

Virtually uncontested during the road race, Rutter finished to comfortably, despite a late-stage charge by Martin Jessop, who put on a show with his charge to second, after a poor start off the line.

“The team gave me a brilliant bike,” said Rutter. “The crowds have been fantastic. I enjoy coming here and hope it will keep continuing.” Riding for the SMT Racing team on a Honda CBR1000RR, Rutter was teammates with Isle of Man TT star and rival John McGuinness, whose seventh place finish put SMT at the top of Macau’s first-ever Team Award.

Rounding out the podium was Simon Andrews, making the post-race celebrations a strictly British affair. Meanwhile, America’s main man Mark Miller rode to a respectable fifteenth place finish for the Splitlath Redmond team. Full race results are after the jump.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

No Sub 800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley Davidson Doesnt Understand Emerging Markets Harley Davidson board racer

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Benelli Due Release Clarified – End of 2012 & Worldwide

12/21/2011 @ 2:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Benelli Due Release Clarified    End of 2012 & Worldwide Benelli 2ue 635x452

After the news that the Benelli Due 756 would finally be produced and released came out last week, the Italian brand has released a clarification in response to the news that hit the interwebs. Confirming that the Due would indeed become a production model (after making the rounds at motorcycle shows for the better part of the last five years), the Chinese owned Benelli Q.J. released a statement saying that the release date would not be the end of 2011 as some sites had reported, but instead at the end of 2012 (seemingly making this a 2013 model year motorcycle).

Benelli has not outright denied that the news that the Due will hit the Chinese market before it makes its way to Europe, though the Chinese company was quick to say in its statement that “the current version of the Due will be produced in Italy and exported to China and the emerging global markets (without neglecting the European market).” Cryptically we gather that means that the Due we’ve seen will be a world model, while an updated version is slated to hit the European market at some point in the future (2018 perhaps?).

Benelli Due 756 Finally Goes Live…in China?

12/16/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Benelli Due 756 Finally Goes Live...in China? benelli due eicma 2009 635x425

The Benelli Due concept has been in the works for so long, we’re officially giving it the Duke Nukem Forever status of the motorcycle industry. I first laid my eyes on the two-cylinder street-standard back in 2009, as the then called “2ue” was making its second EICMA appearance (the Due made its first appearance as early as the Cologne show in 2006).

Essentially a Benelli triple with a cylinder lopped off, the Benelli Due displaces 756cc with its inline cylinders, and is an otherwise attractive motorcycle. Given how much of a basketcase the “Tre” motor was, we can only imagine the “character” its two-cylinder counterpart brings to the table, though that is an entirely different issue.

Finally announcing that the Benelli Due will hit dealership floors in 2012, the Chinese-owned Italian company has an interesting twist with its news: the Benelli Due will be released in China first, then Europe and other markets.

At play surely is the idea and principle of pride that Chinese companies should release models in their home country first, before servicing other markets. This notion is surely understandable, but does strike us as interesting considering that Europe and North America are likely to be bigger volume markets for this big-displacement motorcycle.

Suzuki Q2 2011 – Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters

08/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Suzuki Q2 2011   Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters Suzuki GSXR 635x396

Sometimes when reading the posts made on other motorcycle sites, or the comments by readers across the web, I don’t think there is a full grasp as to how bad the recession was for the motorcycle industry. Granted company’s like Ducati, BMW, and Victory have shown remarkable growth in a down period, but their success, though due in-part to the failures of Harley-Davidson and the Japanese manufacturers, is limited on its bearing to the industry as a whole. This because, quite frankly, these companies comprise only a small portion of the industry’s sales, units, and revenue.

The fact that Harley-Davidson was so close to the brink that they dumped everything outside of its core business is but one sign that motorcycling was in trouble. Another sign would be that Suzuki reportedly didn’t import any new units for the 2010 model years, instead letting local inventories in the US handle the dwindling demand for the company’s motorcycles. The fact that the motorcycle industry as whole almost folded-up on itself like a tin can without anyone making a real fuss about it is perhaps a great signal as to how far various stakeholders heads are buried in the sand. So for our last attempt to put things into perspective, try this one on for size:

For the first time in nearly three years, Suzuki’s motorcycle division has posted a profit…or, the last time Suzuki made money selling motorcycles was Q2 2008 (the same timeframe that Bill Gates stepped down from his daily duties at Microsoft).

2011 BMW G650GS – A Face Only a Mother Could Love

10/28/2010 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

2011 BMW G650GS   A Face Only a Mother Could Love 2011 BMW G650GS 23 635x482

The 2011 BMW G650GS is a quasi-new model from the Bavarian factory, as the bike is built around the same F650GS platform we’re all familiar with, but adds a new headlight and bodywork package to the mix. Taking over from the old G650Gs which was built in China, the 2011 BMW G650GS is built in Germany at BMW’s central motorcycle plant, and is another model being shown ahead of EICMA by BMW, along with the 2011 BMW R1200R & 2011 BMW R1200R Classic.

With a 652cc DOHC liquid-cooled single-cylinder motor that puts out 48hp (and optional 34hp package is also available to comply with Spanish, and soon EU law), and 44 lbs•ft of torque. Tourers won’t be happy with BMW’s 14L (3.7 gallons) fuel tank for the G650GS, down from the previous 17.3L tank. That range trade-off has been made to help make the BMW G650GS more agile though, as the smaller tank helps get the 2011 BMW G650GS down to its 423 lbs wet weight, with a full tank of gas. A bounty of photos awaits you after the jump.

Close Vote Reelects Vito Ippolito as FIM President

10/20/2010 @ 6:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Close Vote Reelects Vito Ippolito as FIM President Vito Ippolito FIM President reelect 635x396

While MotoGP fans were watching the Australian GP at Phillip Island, current FIM President Vito Ippolitio was having a race of his own, as he looked to be reelected to his role in the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) during an election being held at Macau, China. With 98 of the FIM’s 101 federations in attendance, Ippolito managed to squeak another term through the year 2014, winning the vote 55-41 against French candidate Jean-Pierre Mougin.

Ippolito has come under fire for the dwindling grid size in MotoGP, and the growing number of issues that concerns Infront Motor Sports’ rights with the World Superbike Series in relation to the new GP rule structure with production-based motors. To a lesser extent Ippolito has also drawn criticism for the FIM’s involvement in alternative energy, most notably with the TTXGP series split. Now securing his role for another four years, it will be interesting to see how Ippolito cleans the FIM’s house.

The World is Not Enough – Bajaj Wants to Create a Three-Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki

09/24/2010 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The World is Not Enough   Bajaj Wants to Create a Three Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki ktm bajaj collaboration 635x476

According to Indian publication Bike Advice, Bajaj is looking to cultivate its relationships with KTM & Kawasaki further, hoping to create a three-way alliance that would build off the strengths of each company. Since 1986 Bajaj has had technical ties to Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki, with Bajaj paying royalties to Kawasaki for basing its creations off Kawasaki designs. Bajaj and Kawasaki also share distribution channels, with Bajaj motorcycles being sold at Kawasaki dealerships, and vice versa.

In 2007 the Indian manufacturer bought a 17% stake in KTM (Bajaj has since increased its stake in the Austrian company to 35% in 2008, with further investment plans rumored), which allowed Bajaj access to Europe and KTM access to India. Bajaj has also gained some of KTM’s knowledge on two-stroke motors, while KTM has seen the small-bike specialist help them with its soon-to-be released KTM 125 Duke project.

With all these relationships being fostered, and obvious synergies existing, Bajaj wants to take its relationship with each company to the next level (in America we call that Third Base), and change the level of collaboration so it goes three-ways. The affect would be a merger, without the merger.