Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Video: Sometimes It’s Just Not Your Day…

05/22/2013 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Video: Sometimes Its Just Not Your Day... russian motorcycle crash 635x423

The old adage with motorcycles is that it’s not if you crash, but when you crash. That is because over an infinite amount of time, your chances of riding a motorcycle without crashing drop to zero — if not but for the simple fact that you cannot control the actions of others.

Take for example our unfortunate Russian friend here, who had the misfortune of crossing over a path of diesel/oil/coolant left by a car on a highway off-ramp. Obeying all the laws of the road, he still ended rubber-side-up on the roadway, and left to pick-up the pieces after the crash…literally.

It is sort of a surreal video with the music choice, but serves as a good PSA for the ATGATT movement. Luckily this rider was able to walk away relatively unscathed, and his bike will live to ride another day as well. Be careful out there folks.

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2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 2 Times: Camier Fastest Amidst Another Crashfest

02/15/2013 @ 10:57 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 2 Times: Camier Fastest Amidst Another Crashfest Leon Camier Phillip Island Fixi Crescent Suzuki test 635x423

The second day of the private test for the World Superbike teams at Phillip Island went very much as the first day did: with fast times, and a lot of crashes. The new surface was to blame for both: Leon Camier got half a second under the race lap record, but the on/off grip levels of the track saw him, and almost every one else, flung off their bikes at one point or another.

Camier ended the day fastest, the engine updates on his FIXI Crescent Suzuki improving the machine considerably, along with electronic updates for the bike. Sylvain Guintoli – the man Suzuki originally signed alongside Camier, but who jumped ship for the factory Aprilia ride – was 2nd, a tenth off the pace of Camier, proving that the Aprilia RSV4 still a potent weapon.

Johnny Rea put the Pata Honda into 3rd, with work continuing on ironing out the wrinkles with the HRC electronics, with both Rea and Haslam pleased with the progress made, though still aware of the task ahead. Marco Melandri was the fastest BMW man, though the Italian was wary of pushing too hard for fear of crashing, and adding further damage to his painful shoulder. Melandri did put in a long run on used tires, running a consistent string of laps around the 1’32 mark, a solid race pace.

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 1 Times: Laverty Leads as New Surface Causes Crashfest

02/14/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

2013 WSBK Private Phillip Island Test Day 1 Times: Laverty Leads as New Surface Causes Crashfest Leon Camier Fixi Crescent Suzuki 635x422

While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.

They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.

Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.

Video: Sometimes Moto-Journalists Crash Bikes off Piers

12/03/2012 @ 6:23 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Video: Sometimes Moto Journalists Crash Bikes off Piers lolo moto journal yamaha fjr1300a crash pier 635x403

Everyone is entitled to a bad day at the office, and for motorcycle journalists, that phrase usually means crashing a press bike during a bike launch or test. You expect to run that risk when you are riding hard at the track, or maybe on a twisty or unfamiliar canyon road, but a solo-crash on a deserted city street? Not so much.

Proving that you can never let your guard down, especially when it comes to riding along the water’s edge, our dear colleagues at the esteemed French publication Moto Journal got a quick reminder to mind the panniers.

With the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A at over seven feet in length, some gorilla math puts the drop at 10 to 15 feet for our protagonist, who somehow drops directly into the boat along the pier’s edge. How he and the bike didn’t end up in the drink is beyond comprehension. Hopefully the only thing hurt was Lolo’s pride.

You have to give the folks at Moto Journal some credit for having some good humor and posting this video up to YouTube. No doubt, they will be the brunt of every other motorcycle publication’s joke for the next week.

Video: Crashing Backwards in Slow-Mo

11/26/2012 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

Video: Crashing Backwards in Slow Mo motorcycle crash1 635x393

We hate to see riders going down, but this might be the most creepy awesome thing you see all day. It is a bit surreal to watch a motorcycle crash go from horrible to normal, especially as the rider flies around as if in some sort of Matrix-like kung fu fight, but it all just serves as a reminder to be good, wear gear, and do wheelies. Thanks for the tip Gigi!

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola

09/05/2012 @ 12:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

WSBK: Joan Lascorz & Kawasaki Talk for the First Time about the Crash at Imola Joan Lascorz WSBK Kawasaki 635x412

Recovering from the injuries he sustained while testing for Kawasaki at Imola, we learned earlier this year that Joan Lascorz was lucky to escape with his life from the frightful event, though he will never walk again. Suffering from paralysis from his abdomen down, the well-liked Spaniard is still recuperating, but has released a press release (along with Kawasaki) about the event, the months after it, and Jumbo’s coming future.

Recounting the incident, Lascorz also gives an insightful description of his current state of mind, and his thoughts about his road to a new life. The full press release is after the jump. It’s okay if you get a bit misty-eyed while reading it. We certainly did.

Ben Spies Told by Yamaha to Give 100% or Don’t Show Up

08/19/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

Ben Spies Told by Yamaha to Give 100% or Dont Show Up Ben Spies giving 100 percent 635x423

“I’m really not even upset about it,” said Ben Spies after his disappointing finish at the Indianapolis GP. Calm and collected after watching the motor on his Yamaha YZR-M1 blow-up down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s front straight, Spies explained that he is really at the point where his bad luck, as many are calling it, is at a laughing point. Ben has already made an announcement that he will not be with Yamaha for the 2013 season, and Valentino Rossi has already filled the void left by the Texan at the factory team, but the issues surrounding Ben’s misfortunes continue to be raised.

Talking to the assembled press after the Indianapolis GP, Spies cracked open the door a bit further, and cast some light on what has been occurring within the Yamaha camp. With Yamaha seemingly believing that Spies was not racing at his full potential, the American explained that after the Italian GP at Mugello, he was told by a high-up at Yamaha that he better race 100% at Laguna Seca, or not bother coming to the race at all.

MotoGP: Nicky Hayden Not Racing in Indianapolis GP

08/18/2012 @ 3:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Nicky Hayden Not Racing in Indianapolis GP Nicky Hayden Indianapolis GP injury 635x423

UPDATE: The news unfortunately seems to be official. Hayden will miss racing in the Indy GP.

One of three riders to crash hard in Saturday’s MotoGP qualifying session, Nicky Hayden’s participation in his home Grand Prix seems very unlikely after his high-side in the final turn at the IMS road course. Flying high and landing hard, Hayden was knocked unconscious by the crash, and was said to be incoherent after the crash.

Suffering an injury to his hand as well as his head, Hayden’s arm was x-rayed and his head was CAT scanned. While the CAT scan came back negative, the x-rays showed Hayden had suffered two small fractures to his right hand. Because of those injuries he has been ruled unfit to ride in tomorrow’s race.

MotoGP: Hector Barbera Fractures Vertebrae at Indy

08/17/2012 @ 4:28 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Hector Barbera Fractures Vertebrae at Indy Hector Barbera crash Indianapolis GP 635x423

Hector Barbera will be forced to miss the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, after suffering a back injury during the morning session of Friday’s free practice for the MotoGP class. Barbera suffered a nasty highside at Turn 16, his rear wheel appearing to catch on a section of track which appeared still to be dirty, and in the ensuing crash, Barbera landed on his neck and fractured three dorsal vertebrae, D5, D6 and D8. He was taken to the local Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and has been ruled unfit to race.

Trackside Tuesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

07/31/2012 @ 6:33 pm, by Daniel Lo5 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Third Times the Charm? toni elias crash laguna seca 635 7

Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.

However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.