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.

KTM 790 Duke Prototype Debuts with Parallel-Twin Engine

11/08/2016 @ 5:21 am, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

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For KTM, the 2016 EICMA show is all about the Duke line of streetfighters. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R got a pretty sizable upgrade for 2017, the KTM 690 Duke received a facelift, and the KTM 390 Duke is now easily the best bike in its class.

The Austrians didn’t stop there though, they also gave us a taste of what is still to come for the Duke brand, teasing us with the KTM 790 Duke prototype.

Rumored heavily before the new bike season, this “KTM 800 Duke” features an 800cc parallel-twin engine, slapped into an upright motard-esque chassis.

The Kendo-styled LED headlight that’s finding its way into the entire KTM range features here as well, though that is hardly the most radical part of the 790 Duke’s design – checkout the undertail exhaust, which probably spit plums of fire before the lawyers got ahold of it.

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Oh My! The Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports Concept

11/08/2016 @ 2:13 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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File the Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept under things we like, as the adventure-bike concept takes perhaps the most off-road competent ADV bike on the market, and raises its dirt credit by another factor of ten.

Built off the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, the Enduro Sports concept is intended to expand the Africa Twin family, and to help the new adventure bike attract more riders into its Cult of Brap.

To do this, Honda’s R&D department came up with several lighter weight chassis components (Honda does say what specifically, of course), which were initially developed for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, which competes in the Dakar Rally.

The styling is aggressive, especially with the revised headlight assembly. The windscreen and fairings have been re-styled for a sportier look as well, and of course the Termignoni exhaust system is eye-catching, in utilitarian sort of way. Overall, the effect is quite stark.

Honda concept bikes have a funny way of becoming production models in a year or two’s time. As such, we wouldn’t mind have one in our garage. Would you?

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Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

11/07/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

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Energica Debuting New Electric Motorcycle Concept

10/31/2016 @ 5:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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It looks like we will get to see a new electric motorcycle at the EICMA show in Milan, as Energica says it will debut a new electric motorcycle concept at the Italian trade show.

Saying in its press release that the new concept will be “an evolution of design and technologies already adopted on Energica models. The company with this new concept will approach the most recent motorcycle market trends.”

Beyond this, Energica is being very tight lipped about the new machine. As such, it is not clear what kind of motorcycle Energica will actually unveil.

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Honda Africa Twin Supermoto Concept by Nicolas Petit

10/17/2016 @ 4:46 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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The Honda Africa Twin doesn’t lend itself naturally to a supermoto format, though it is one of the most capable off-road adventure bikes on the market, but you have to admit that this photoshop render by French designer Nicolas Petit is very intriguing.

Maybe it’s our obvious bias towards anything supermoto that is talking, or maybe it’s that there is something to the idea of taking the Africa Twin, adding 17” wheels, and lowering it just enough that riders can actually flat-foot the machine while sitting on it.

Add in some styling cues that scream “supermotard” and you have a very handsome machine that is ready to conquer anything the urban environment can throw at it. Hell, it’s probably just a scary clown costume away from a good time on a gravel road. Right??!

We doubt Honda has any eyes on offering a more on-road version of the CRF1000L, though if they did, and it looked like this, we might be intrigued. Just leave the DCT off of it.

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BMW Says That This Is the Future of Motorcycles

10/12/2016 @ 3:27 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Fresh as an MBA graduate, in the very early days of Asphalt & Rubber, I had an interview with a prominent Fortune 500 company that was well-known for its 100 year plan.

This was a topic of conversation during my job interview, as I found it intriguing that a company could even pretend to predict what the world will look like in 100 years.

To find the arrogance in this notion, imagine the trying to predict things like social media, cell phones, the internet, automobiles, commercial flying, and space travel…all at the turn of the 20th century.

With the rate of change we have seen in the past 100 years, apply that same trend to the next 100 years, and you will see how futile such a prediction can be. What don’t know what we don’t know, in this regard.

So, it’s with some amusement that we share with you today BMW Motorrad’s vision for motorcycling in the next 100 years.

The German brand calls its the BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100, and says that the concept “embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world – an analogue experience in a digital age.”

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New Four-Cylinder MV Agusta Brutale Debuting at EICMA

09/14/2016 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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You know the new-bike season is just around the corner, because we’re starting to get glimpses of what the motorcycle OEMs will debut at shows like INTERMOT and EICMA.

We’ve already had a glimpse of the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR, as well as the 2017 BMW S1000R, and if the folks at Italian motorcycle magazine Motociclismo are correct, the following is a concept sketch of the four-cylinder 2017 MV Agusta Brutale.

The new Brutale is one of two new bikes that MV Agusta will launch at the EICMA show, with the other machine pegged as a special edition three-cylinder model.

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Oh Yes, Honda’s ADV Scooter is Coming

08/31/2016 @ 10:05 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

City Adventure Concept

Remember how Honda teased with a 21-part video series for the Africa Twin adventure-tourer? Get ready for the same treatment again, this time for Big Red’s ADV Scooter, which so far we only know as the “Honda City Adventure” concept.

This off-roading feet-forward scooter is coming to Europe, and likely North America as well, which should be an interesting test for this crossover model.

The latest teaser video gives us a pretty good glimpse of the machine, which doesn’t stray too far from its trade show concept, complete with wire wheels and dual-sport tires.

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BMW HP2 Sport Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

08/29/2016 @ 8:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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As a young sport bike enthusiast, I never really took the BMW HP2 Sport seriously during its brief tenure as part of BMW Motorrad’s two-wheeled lineup (the BMW HP2 Sport was discontinued after the 2012 model year).

Under-powered, overweight, with clearance issues from the air-cooled boxer engine – I just didn’t “get it” when it came to the HP2.

As a more veteran rider, who too now is a little underpowered, overweight, with some clearance issues, I have a better appreciation for this quirky street bike, and a sort of longing for the HP2 to return to BMW’s arsenal. So too does Oberdan Bezzi.

Here, the Italian designer imagines a machine that benefits from BMW’s liquid-cooled version of its boxer-twin engine, the same lump that powers the current line of R-bikes, like the venerable BMW R1200GS adventure-tourer.

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Honda CB1100R Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

08/24/2016 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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We’ve got air-cooled bikes on the brain today, so it seemed appropriate to share one of Oberdan Bezzi’s latest work. The Honda CB1100R concept imagines an air-cooled inline-four engin, wrapped in the bodywork of a sport bike that harkens back to the Honda RC30.

Two classic bikes from Honda’s lineup that make for odd bedfellows, Bezzi’s concept strikes a chord though – especially with more veteran riders who remember when 100hp was more than any street rider could hope for.

Despite the advent of Euro4 emission regulations and crack-downs by the EPA, air-cooled motorcycles are finding their second wind. Free from having to achieve outright performance figures,  less powerful air-cooled motorcycles are filling a niche where more simple and affordable bikes are the most alluring.

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