Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.