Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Dainese Responds to Alpinestars Regarding Airbag Lawsuit

12/29/2015 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.

First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.

Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.

You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.

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Alpinestars & Dainese Head to Court Over Airbag Systems

12/17/2015 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain.

Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level.

The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.

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MotoGP Tire Allocation Expanded & Open Class Killed Off

12/16/2015 @ 10:28 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec-electronics.

The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again.

This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories that have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions).

Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use twelve engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen.

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Dainese Just Made Your Motorcycle Jacket Obsolete

09/14/2015 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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For reasons too obvious to mention, motorcycle gear protection has been on my mind lately. Though my broken collarbone is unfortunate, it is timely, as Dainese just released its D-Air Misano 1000 jacket, the world’s first commercially available self-contained airbag jacket for motorcyclists.

Let’s be really clear about one thing: this is a sea change for motorcycle safety.

Debuting at the San Marino GP, the venue for the Dainese D-Air Misano 1000’s release is no mistake, as the jacket builds off the Italian company’s experience with airbag suits in the MotoGP World Championship.

At the highest level of racing, airbag technology has become a game-changing technology, and now riders on the street can use essentially that same airbag system, that same proprietary crash-sensing software (modified for street use), and that same company history of safety that the professionals rely on while on the race track.

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Dainese D-Air Racing Suits Coming to the USA*

06/01/2015 @ 3:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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*For reals this time.

For those looking for more protection from their racing leathers, Dainese D-Air Racing suits are finally coming to the USA. Already bringing the technology in Europe last year, Dainese is set finally to bring the D-Air Racing technology to the USA, in September 2015.

Riders interested in the airbag-equipped leather suit have two options: 1) the top-of-the-line off-the-rack Misano D-Air cow leather suit ($2,499), or 2) the made-to-measure Mugello D-Air custom kangaroo leather suit (Price TBD).

This announcement represents the first airbag-equipped motorcycle race suits to go on sale in the USA (Alpinestars Tech-Air system is still not available, though the rival Italian brand is close to coming to market), and offers track riders the same level of protection as Dainese’s MotoGP riders, like Valentino Rossi.

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Dainese D-Air Armor Now Available to Other Companies

05/29/2015 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Announced today at Mugello, Dainese is making its D-air airbag technology available to other race suit manufacturers.

Calling the integrated airbag, electronics, gas generator, wiring, battery, and GPS the Dainese D-air Armor “open platform”, the Italian firm hopes to begin protecting all the riders in the Grand Prix World Championships with this new business strategy.

At its core, the D-air Armor technology is the same that Dainese-sponsored riders have been enjoying this season, and arguably the Dainese system is the best airbag system currently available use for motorcycle racers.

Rivaling Alpinstars in protecting GP riders with airbags, today’s announcement will mean that riders with other leather suit brands, will be able to get airbag protection. Dainese has already signed deals with Vircos and Furygan.

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How Harley-Davidson Got Sued Over ABS Brakes & Why You Can’t Buy an Airbag Leather Suit in the USA

06/30/2014 @ 9:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler57 COMMENTS

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I was reading DealerNews last week when I stumbled across a brief story about how Harley-Davidson was being sued by a couple, because the Bar & Shield brand did not offer the 2012 Electra Glide Classic with an anti-locking brake option.

The lawsuit comes about as a couple was riding two-up on their motorcycle in Texas, when a car suddenly cut in front of them. Locking up the wheels of the Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle fishtailed out of control, and flung the couple quite some distance. They are subsequently suing Harley-Davidson for $75,000 in damages.

I can already foresee the pro-business comments below this article, deriding these motorcyclists for a series events that amount to “their fault” for their medical and financial woes — after all, it was they who chose to buy a motorcycle without ABS, right?

Legal scholars, and those familiar with tort law and product liability in the United States though, will see the case quite differently. And barring specific details and circumstances, the conclusion to this lawsuit will almost certainly side with the complainants, not Harley-Davidson.

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Ducati Announces Multistrada D-Air Model with Integrated Wireless Airbag Capabilities from Dainese

03/21/2014 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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With the Ducati Multistrada D-Air, the Italian brand is laying claim to the first production motorcycle with a wirelessly integrated airbag jacket system.

Something that was announced at last year’s EICMA show by BMW Motorrad, the Italians have seemingly beaten the Germans to market, though the real announcement here is the OEM integration that Dainese is building with its D-Air suits and jackets with various manufacturers.

The Ducati system, like the BMW version, includes an integrated set of electronics built into the motorcycle’s existing electronics package. This allows the Dainese D-Air system to constantly know the motorcycle’s vehicle dynamics, and use those telemetry figures to determine if/when an airbag needs to be deployed during a crash.

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Rumor: Dainese up for Sale?

12/20/2013 @ 5:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle industry gossip is at a fever pitch this week with speculation that Italian motorcycle apparel manufacturer Dainese is up for sale. Adding credence to that rumors, Asphalt & Rubber has received a number of tips about the possible sale of the company, with a private investment group cited as a possible buyer.

When we approached with this information, Dainese simply said that rumors were simply that, rumors. However it is worth noting that at the helm of the company for the past few months has been interim-CEO Federico Minoli, the same man that lead Ducati Motor Holding to being acquired by Texas Pacific Group, and later took the Italian motorcycle manufacturer public on the New York Stock Exchange.

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The Dainese D-Air Racing Airbag Suit Comes to America

01/26/2012 @ 7:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Getting a look at Dainese & AGV’s 2012 collection, Asphalt & Rubber was down in Orange County earlier this week to see the highly anticipated Dainese D-Air Racing leather suit, which has a four liter airbag system that helps reduce the risk of injury during a motorcycle crash.

Dainese has been working on the D-Air Racing system for 10 years now, and after soft-launching the airbag suit in Europe, the Italian company is ready to bring the game-changing technology to American soil.

If you watch MotoGP or World Superbike, you have likely already seen the roughly one pound (650 grams) D-Air Racing suit at work, as riders like Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Stefan Bradl, Leon Haslam, and Max Biaggi have been wearing Dainese’s airbag leathers while racing, and have also been providing the company with feedback on the D-Air’s design and development.

In addition to deploying an airbag that protects a rider’s neck, chest, and shoulders, the Dainese D-Air system also provides a telemetry package that track riders can use in lieu of a basic motorcycle data acquisition system.

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