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.

All Hail the Demonic Ducati Diavel Diesel

01/19/2017 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Ducati and Diesel have been cross-promoting with each other since 2011, first with the jeans brand sponsoring the motorcycle company’s efforts in the MotoGP Championship. The relationship then blossomed into a bike collaboration, with the Ducati Monster Diesel.

With the naming thing going on, you really can’t blame people for thinking that the tank-colored motorcycle shared a fuel source with a piece of mobile artillery. We don’t think anyone will be making that mistake with the Ducati Diavel Diesel though.

Possibly fueled by fire and brimstone and with 666 units to be made, it should be very clear that Ducati and Diesel wanted something a bit edgier in their limited edition power cruiser. We know this because phrases like “hyperkinetic dynamism”, “post-apocalyptic”, and “retro-futuristic world” are used in the press release to describe this Diavel (which is Bolognese for devil, by the way).

Snark aside, the Ducati Diavel Diesel is a pretty interesting collaborative design from the two brands, and it features hand-brushed stainless steel panels that have been welded and riveted together. We can also see some intriguing pieces built for the exhaust and seat.

Of course, the brake calipers have been painted red, as have been five links on the drive chain – unfortunately the latter are not visible to us in the photos. Take a gander for yourself, after the jump.

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Why the Honda Rebel Is The Hot New Bike for 2017

11/24/2016 @ 1:32 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-500-300-lifestyle-17

The following is our second taste of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. This article focuses on a current and critical event that happened in the industry, which is something A&R Pro content will focus on. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

New bike season is just about over, now that INTERMOT, EICMA, AIMExpo, and IMS Long Beach trade shows are behind us.

We could still see some new models and concepts debut later this year in Japan, and there is always the possibility of something interesting showing up at the IMS New York show, but those are less popular venues for new bike releases.

In that case then, we can start making some conjecture about the bikes that debuted this year, many of them for the 2017 model year. Let’s start with the best of the best — I am of course talking about the new Honda Rebel models. No? Not the bike you were expecting?

Sure, these unassuming 300cc and 500cc street bikes don’t have the same sex appeal as some of the more wild machines we saw in Germany and Italy, but make no mistake, the revamped Honda Rebel is the most important new bike we have seen debut this year. Let me explain.

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How Polaris Can Mutate and Take Over the World

11/21/2016 @ 7:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

motorcycle-cruiser-evolution

The following is an example of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

Considering how much growth they are achieving, how many brands they are acquiring, and how many new bikes they are developing, it really is a shame that we don’t talk about Polaris here more often. The American OEM is one of the true movers-and-shakers of the motorcycle industry right now.

It probably has something to do with the fact that Polaris’ two sub-brands, Indian and Victory, produce machines that are outside our usual fare at Asphalt & Rubber. That is a polite way of saying, they make cruisers, and we don’t really like those sort of motorcycles here.

There is nothing wrong with someone riding a cruiser, of course. In fact, roughly one of every two new motorcycles sold in the United States comes from our friends at Harley-Davidson. American motorcycling really looks more like a Harley-Davidson cult than we may think here in our sport-bike focused echo chamber.

In the pursuit to see how the other half lives, I have been riding around on a Victory Octane for the past few weeks, as part of an ongoing discussion with the folks at Victory about their products, and how sport bike riders perceive them.

My initial thoughts on the Octane, and Victory as a whole, lead me to some interesting notes about the bigger picture at Polaris, and how the American OEM can set itself as one of the top global brands in the motorcycle industry. Like with Rommel in the desert, it involves a two-pronged attack.

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New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

11/17/2016 @ 8:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-300

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one.

Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show.

The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin)  and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Available starting in April 2017, tentative pricing for the Honda Rebel 300 is set at $4,399, while the Honda Rebel 500 is priced tentatively at $5,999, both sans ABS, though ABS models will be available as well.

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Two New BMW Models Debuting a INTERMOT

09/12/2016 @ 1:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

bmw-retro-logo

Every other year, the motorcycle industry gathers in Cologne, Germany in October, for the INTERMOT trade expo. The show provides a good alternative for the Germanic brands to launch new machines, with BMW and KTM often showcasing new models at the show. This year will be no different.

To that end, BMW Motorrad is already getting its hype machine warmed up, telling us that several models will debut updates in Cologne. More importantly, zie Germans tell us that two new motorcycles will also debut at the INTERMOT show.

What those models will be is certainly the conjecture du jour, since there are several possibilities that BMW Motorrad could be working on.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that BMW often leaves something interesting for the yearly EICMA show in Milan, Italy, which happens a month later, in the first week of November. This might make decoding BMW’s game plan all but impossible, but we can still give it a try.

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Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

08/15/2016 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Roland-Sands-Design-RSD-Ducati-XDiavel-custom-motorcycle-Sturgis-13

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel.

Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches.

This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog.

There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel. It makes for an interesting mixture. We’ll be curious to see how this resonates with American cruiser riders.

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Understanding the Ducati XDiavel, A Review

08/06/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The Ducati XDiavel is another big step for the Brand from Bologna, as the modell pushes further into the territory first pioneered by the Ducati Diavel, and hopes to give cruiser enthusiasts a design that speaks a little bit more of their native language.

With forward controls coming standard, along with a low and raked chassis design, the XDiavel is unlike any other Ducati on the market, and it takes some time to wrap your head around that fact.

These changes though allow Ducati to move boldly into an area dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson. That is a tall mountain to climb, as the Bar & Shield brand has a chokehold on the cruiser-riding faithful, who flock to the American brand not because of what it does, but because of who it is.

This makes winning the hearts and minds of cruiser riders an exceptionally difficult task – one too that is not easily undertaken. The first step in mounting the assault on that summit is to develop a motorcycle that has no equal. In this regard, Ducati has a fighting chance.

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2017 Yamaha SCR950 – Bolting into a Scrambler

06/08/2016 @ 8:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

"XVS950XR USA CAN 2017"

We knew last year at the 2015 EICMA show that scrambler and other post-authentic models would finally be coming from the major manufacturers, especially as the Japanese OEMs caught up to the trend du jour.

At the time, the worry was that this marked motorcycling’s “jumping the shark” moment when it came to these throw-back machines, with the mainstream pushing out the fringe adopters, who would move on to their next counter-culture statement.

Today, we see the first of that momentum, with the 2017 Yamaha SCR950 – a scrambler-type model, which is based off the Yamaha Bolt cruiser platform.

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Say Goodbye to the Kawasaki W800

06/01/2016 @ 1:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Kawasaki-W800-Final-Edition-02

Kawasaki announced today that 2017 will be the last model year for the Kawasaki W800, as the retro-classic machine is going the way of the dodo, thanks largely to the advent of Euro4 emission standards.

Any hope of a model refresh down the line seems to have been squashed, as Kawasaki says that this is “the end of the iconic W series of four-stroke vertical twin motorcycles” and that the “W800 ‘Final Edition’ marks the end of an era” in its press release.

That’s an interesting move from Team Green, considering the popularity of post-authentic machines right now – bikes like the Triumph Bonneville and Ducati Scrambler.

This is as much of the death of a motorcycle line, as it is a shift of focus by one of the largest motorcycle OEMs.

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Yamaha Folds Star Motorcycles Back into Its Core Brand

05/02/2016 @ 7:26 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

star-motorcycles-logo

The eagle eyes at Motorcycle.com have noticed that Yamaha Motor Corporation is in the process of folding its Star Motorcycles cruiser brand back into the company’s core motorcycle business, under the Yamaha name.

The move is a tectonic shift for the space, as Star Motorcycles was Yamaha’s attempt to give Harley-Davidson a run for its money with superior “metric cruiser” offerings.

As such, the brand was originally set aside from Yamaha’s other motorcycle models, in an attempt to set Star Motorcycles away from the “Jap Bike” mentality that existed at the time in the cruiser demographic.

Yamaha, along with Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki have had limited success in this regard, despite offering superior machinery on virtual every metric, save one: their bikes are not from the Bar & Shield brand.

Surely now realizing this, Yamaha has pivoted its “sport heritage” lineup back into Yamaha’s core brand, though we expect the “Star” name will remain in the model branding to some degree.

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