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.

Dainese’s The TT Trilogy – Part 2: The Race

06/12/2013 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Dainese’s The TT Trilogy – Part 2: The Race dainese tt trilogy the race 635x423

The second installment of Dainese’s little Isle of Man TT video series, we get to hear from Milwaukee Yamaha rider Conor Cummins. “You should be fully focused on the road ahead, because it bites hard,” says Cummins in the video. No rider should know the truth of those words better than Conor, as in the 2010 TTT the Manx man had a horrific crash that he was lucky to survive.

Back to full-health now, Cummins clocked a third in the Lightweight TT, a fifth in the Superbike TT, and a fifteenth in the second Supersport TT. The fastest Manx rider ever around the Isle of Man’s Mountain Course, Cummins is the pride of the Isle, and a serious contender in any race he enters.

However, Milwaukee Yamaha didn’t get the results they wanted this year, but you can’t rule Cummins out for 2014. As he says himself,  “we’re not going racing to finish second. We’re going to win.”

Dainese’s The TT Trilogy – Part 1: The Island

06/05/2013 @ 6:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Daineses The TT Trilogy   Part 1: The Island dainese the tt trilogy part one 635x423

It looks like Dainese, one of the main sponsors of the Isle of Man TT, is gearing up to do a series of short videos about the famous road race (you may have seen our coverage of the 2013 Isle of Man TT thus far). The first installment, simply titled “The Island”, captures perhaps the most important, yet most difficult element to describe: the allure of the Isle of Man TT.

A little rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, the views from the countryside and mountain tops are breathtaking, the Manx people are warm and hospitable, and the racing, well…the racing is unlike anything you have ever seen. That all seems to come through here, and we can’t wait to see the rest of what the Italian company has to offer from The Rock. Good stuff.

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing

04/24/2013 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Q&A: Kevin Schwantz Talks COTA, MotoGP, & the Future of American Road Racing kevin schwantz interview jensen beeler 635x422

The Thursday before the start of the Grand Prix of the Americas, Asphalt & Rubber was part of a quick event put on by Dainese and Ducati Austin, which allowed fans to meet Kevin Schwantz. Before the start of that evening’s meet-and-greet, I got to sit down with the former 500cc World Champion, and pick his brain not only about the current events happening with the Circuit of the Americas, but also about what was occurring on a larger scale within the American road racing scene.

While Mr. Schwantz could only provide limited answers about what was going on with the Texan track and his ongoing litigation with the circuit, his opinions on MotoGP and AMA Pro Racing were insightful, and serve as a serious warning about the state of American road racing not only here in the US, but also abroad in the various World Championships. It is a bit of a long read (Mr. Schwantz was more than generous with his time), but I think you will enjoy the exchange and perspective he shared during the interview.

Marco Simoncelli AGV Replica Helmet

11/29/2012 @ 8:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Marco Simoncelli AGV Replica Helmet agv simoncelli replica chin 635x400

UPDATE: The Simoncelli Tribute helmet will be available in the US in the GP-Tech only. They should be in stores any day now, with an MSRP of $749.95.

It has been over a year since we lost Marco Simoncelli, though it is clear from MotoGP’s revisiting of the Malaysian GP this year that his memory is alive and well. Helping commemorate Marco’s spirit, AGV Helmets is releasing more accurate re-styled Marco Simoncelli replica helmets that have been authorized by the Simoncelli family.

Incorporating the San Carlo logo on the chin guard, the Dainese logo on the top of the shell, a heart with the colors of the Japanese flag on the back, and Marco’s 58 racing number on the temple, the helmet is basically identical to the one that SuperSic wore during the 2011 MotoGP Championship season.

The Dainese D-Air Racing Airbag Suit Comes to America

01/26/2012 @ 7:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The Dainese D Air Racing Airbag Suit Comes to America Dainese D Air Racing airbag suit 635x668

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.

SF Premiere of Fastest Raises $1,500 for Riders for Health

12/14/2011 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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I just got the box office and donation results in from our screening of Fastest last Thursday night, and I’m very happy to report that we raised $1,500 for Riders for Health that evening. Hosted in conjunction with the San Francisco Dainese Store (thanks D-Store Crew!), we had a packed house of over 250 MotoGP fanatics for the SF premiere of the sequel to Faster. Director Mark Neale even drove up from Los Angeles, and signed posters, DVDs, and t-shirts, in addition to participating in the Q&A after the screening.

Those in attendance had a chance to win a signed Randy Mamola illustration by Rich Lee Draws, a Marco Simoncelli Photo Tribute by Scott Jones Photography, and a signed Valentino Rossi VR|46 hat, among other items. A big “thank you” to everyone that came out to watch Fastest with us, and for helping raise so much money for one of motorcycling’s great charities. Hopefully we can do it again soon (more on that to come).

Photo: Glen Coddington

Fastest in San Francisco is a Sellout

12/01/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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We hope you bought your tickets to the San Francisco premiere of Fastest, Mark Neale’s latest MotoGP documentary, because our screening, co-sponsered by the San Francisco Dainese Store, has sold out. If you happen to fall into the group of GP junkies who haven’t purchased tickets to the SF Fastest screening, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve left 20 or so tickets waiting for you at the box office, but you’ll have to pick them up in person, and by pick them up, we mean walk/ride/swim to the Embarcadero Center Cinema right now.

For those of you who already purchased your tickets, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve got a fun evening planned for you. Director Mark Neale will be on-hand to do a Q&A about making Fastest, and we’ve got some nice items to raffle off to attendees, with all proceeds going to Asphalt & Rubber‘s favorite charity: Riders for Health. The official charity of MotoGP, Riders for Health is an international non-profit organization that provides motorcycles (and rider safety and maintenance) to healthcare workers in Africa.

Come Watch Fastest in San Francisco with Asphalt & Rubber

11/25/2011 @ 9:57 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber has teamed up with the San Francisco D-Store to bring you Mark Neale’s Fastest, the long-awaited sequel to the hit MotoGP documentary Faster that features Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Marco Simoncelli. The San Francisco Bay Area premiere of Fastest, our screening will be held at 7pm on Thursday, December 8th at the Embarcadero Center Cinema in downtown San Francisco.

Tickets will be available online or at the box office for $10.50, though we recommend purchasing your tickets ASAP, as we anticipate to sell out the movie well before the event date. All proceeds will go to A&R‘s favorite charity: Riders for Health. The official charity of MotoGP, Riders for Health is an international non-profit organization that provides motorcycles (and rider safety and maintenance) to healthcare workers in Africa. We hope to see you there.

Why Can’t All Motorcycle Videos Be Shot This Well?

08/04/2011 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

If I didn’t already know that this video was made by some guys in their spare time, I could have sworn that this short film was one of the better efforts by Ducati or Dainese (or anyone in motorcycling for that matter) at some cool videography. The brainchild of Barry Munsterteiger, this short video is the work product of several A/V industry professionals who just wanted to mess around with some cameras, a bike, and the open road on their days off from working for the man. Shot around the San Francisco Bay Area, astute eyes will see scenes from San Francisco, Altamont Pass, the Pacific Coast Highway, and other Nor Cal staples.

When you consider how much time, money, and effort went into Ducati’s Diavel ad spot, and the product that came out of that production, it sort of baffles your mind about what’s going on in the motorcycle industry (at least they didn’t hire “a publication of record” to produce it for them). There’s clearly a need in the market for better motorcycle videos, and there’s clearly a market of talented videographers out there to fill the need, Oh, did we mention Barry is looking for a job?

Source: Vimeo

How Jason Pridmore Scared the Crap Out of Me…Twice

05/29/2011 @ 7:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

How Jason Pridmore Scared the Crap Out of Me...Twice Jason Pridmore two up ride Dan Lo 635x423

It all started innocently enough, as I was having dinner with some friends from Dainese before the West Coast Moto Jam, they suggested that I do a two-up ride with Jason Pridmore on the National Guard Suzuki Superbike. “Yeah, that’d be really cool,” I said in response, trying not to burst with excitement as to how awesome and unique I thought the experience would be. Barely sleeping the night before, I arrived Saturday morning at Infineon Raceway, and got decked out in the Dainese/AGV gear that was provided, and headed over to the National Guard Jordan Superbike team pits where we met up with Jason Pridmore.

I was accompanied by several National Guardsmen and some fans (you can win a two-up ride by following Jason on Twitter), and before we got started the AMA & FIM World Endurance veteran introduced the program to us. “Before we start has anyone here been drinking?” asked Pridmore – the day had been hot, and this was a NASCAR venue after all. Raising his hand and looking at the ten of us, “Oh, so just me?..let’s get started” continued Pridmore. Yeah…it was going to be like that.

Swinging my leg over the pillion seat on the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Jason gave me a run-down again on the instructions, and asked me how I was feeling. “I’m pumped,” I replied. “Go as fast as you can.” Now let us take a moment to evaluate who this is the point where I made my critical error in the day, as I suspect Pridmore takes a special joy in scaring the life out of hapless moto-journalists who find themselves on the back of his motorcycle.

Actually, Jason makes it a point to say in his briefing that the goal is to make the ride fun for every passenger, and consider that a goal achieved, as you’d be hard pressed to find someone getting off the back of Jordan Suzuki without a grin that stretches ear-to-ear. However, I suspect that if you’re a motorcycle blogger with more ego than commonsense, this whole concept is forfeit, and it’s at this point in time that I would like to apologize to every pillion I’ve ever had on the back of my street bikes (you know who you are).