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.

BMW Concept Ninety – Retro Meets Modern

05/24/2013 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

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Late last year, we said that BMW Motorrad was working on a special air-cooled motorcycle to help commemorate the German company’s 90th anniversary of making motorbikes. Well, today we get to see what zie Germans have been up to, and it is called the BMW Concept Ninety.

Taking its cues from the BMW R90S, which itself turns 40-years-old today, the BMW Concept Ninety is debuting at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and was designed by America’s own Roland Sands Design and the BMW Motorrad design team.

“The BMW R 90 S hails from an era in which bikers were regarded as outlaws,” said Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design, in the company’s press release. “There was something rebellious about it – it was fast, loud and wild. Pure emotion. And it has retained its fascination to this day.”

With that in mind, we turn our attention to the BMW Concept Ninety. Photos and video are after the jump of course, and leave your thoughts about the machine in the comments.

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KTM RC4 Concept by Luca Bar Design

05/06/2013 @ 3:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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KTM is shaping up to be the brand of 2013. Surpassing BMW Motorrad in outright unit sales, and becoming the largest motorcycle brand in Europe, zie Austrians have been on a tear with their small-displacement machine strategy. Most of that move has been buoyed by KTM’s partnership with Bajaj, which in-turn owns a very sizable minority stake in the Austrian company, but KTM also has been making other moves as well, like the acquisition of Husqvarna by CEO Stefan Pierer and his company Pierer Industrie AG.

Surprisingly, what has been occurring in KTM’s boardroom is almost overshadowing what is occurring in the company’s model line-up, with the KTM 1190 Adventure set to finally come to the USA later this year, almost a year after its European debut, as well the upcoming release of the KTM 390 Duke and its sport bike and adventure variants. Perhaps lost in the wash is the 2013 KTM 690 Duke, which is a new machine for the US market this year.

A single-cylinder hooligan-maker, the KTM 690 Duke is 330 lbs (curbside without fuel) and 67hp of two-wheeled fun, and we hope that the Austrians bring the KTM 690 Duke R our way as well. While we are on the topic of things missing from KTM’s American line-up, a decent supersport is painfully obvious, yet we can’t see the folks at KTM following the paths of other brands. That’s where our friend Luca Bar comes to mind with his latest concept: the KTM RC4.

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Alstare Superbike Concept by Team Alstare

05/03/2013 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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We love us some concept bikes here at Asphalt & Rubber, and we have featured more than a few pieces of stunning design and imagination on our pages. Though, we can’t remember the last time one of these works of art were brought to us by a legitimate racing team, but that is what we have here with the Team Alstare Superbike Concept.

A nod to the former Suzuki team’s return to the World Superbike Championship as the Ducati factory squad with Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini, Alstare has enlisted the help of designer Serge Rusak of Rusak Kreaktive Designworks to ink the shape of its futuristic Superbike concept, while Tryptik Studios handled “bringing the form to life” with its 3D modeling prowess (video after the jump).

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What Goes into a Motorcycle Concept Sketch?

05/02/2013 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on What Goes into a Motorcycle Concept Sketch?

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We have already covered designer Nicolas Petit’s time-lapse video, which shows the 20-minute process of drawing out a motorcycle concept sketch. But what goes into envisioning a concept like the Wunderlich BMW R1200S in the first place? Well, Petit has a video for that as well.

Any interesting perspective on how the French designer takes a BMW R1200GS Adventure, turns it into a boxer-twin sport bike, and then a streetfighter, it is always facinating to see the process behind a person’s art. And if you’re thinking, “man, I wish they’d build that bike!” You’re not alone in that thought.

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Pierre Terblanche Joins Confederate Motorcycles

03/12/2013 @ 1:28 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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When we last caught up with Pierre Terblanche, the he had left a frustrating position with the Piaggio Group, that saw the South-African creating several intriguing concepts for the Moto Guzzi brand that never saw the light of day, and he was thus headed to work for Norton.

With work there being a non-starter, rumors pegged Terblanche coming stateside to work for Confederate Motorcycless, but with those rumors over a year old now, we assumed the thought to collaborate with the Southern marques had passed. However, our inbox today tells us that seems not to be the case, as Confederate Motorcycles has announced that Pierre Terblanche is the company’s new head of product development.

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How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici

02/19/2013 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS

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Just over 18 months ago, I wrote a long analysis of what I believed at the time was the main problem with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP machine. In that analysis, I attributed most of the problems with the Desmosedici to the chosen angle of the V, the angle between the front and rear cylinder banks.

By sticking with the 90° V, I argued, Ducati were creating problems with packaging and mass centralization, which made it almost impossible to get the balance of the Desmosedici right. The engine was taking up too much space, and limiting their ability to adjust the weight balance by moving the engine around.

Though there was a certain logic to my analysis, it appears that the engine angle was not the problem. Yesterday, in their biweekly print edition, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto published an article by Neil Spalding, who had finally obtained photographic evidence that the Honda RC213V uses a 90° V, the same engine angle employed by the Ducati Desmosedici. Given the clear success of the Honda RC213V, there can no longer be any doubt that using a 90° V is no impediment to building a competitive MotoGP machine.

The photographic proof comes as confirmation of rumors which had been doing the rounds in the MotoGP paddock throughout the second half of the 2012 season. Several people suggested that the Honda may use a 90° angle, including Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi, speaking to GPOne.com back in November.

I had personally been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a naked RC213V engine at one rain-soaked race track in September, but while the glimpse through the window may have been good enough to form the impression of an engine that looked like it may have been a 90°V, it was a very long way from being anything resembling conclusive, and nowhere near enough to base a news story on.

Spalding’s persistence has paid off, however. The British photographer and journalist is a common sight wandering among the garages, either first thing in the morning, as the bikes are being warmed up, or late at night, while the mechanics prepare the machines for the following day.

At some point, the Honda mechanics and engineers – protective to the point of prudishness of displaying any part of their machine to the outside world – would let their guard slip. When they did, Spalding pounced.

So why did Honda elect to use an engine layout which is blamed for causing Ducati so much trouble? And how does Honda make the layout work where Ducati have continued to fail? The first question is relatively simple to answer; the second is a good deal more tricky.

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This is Not Rossi’s New Yamaha MotoGP Livery

01/14/2013 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The great winter depression is nearly over for MotoGP fans, as tomorrow Ducati Corse will debut its 2013 team(s) for the premier class, and soon enough we will see similar events from Honda and Yamaha as well. In February, the boys with their bikes will be back on the track, as the pre-season tests at Sepang again give us our first glimpse at the teams’ progress over the off-season.

Of course, the anticipation doesn’t stop some. Take graphic designer and DeviantArtist Samuel from Italy, he spent the long-winter months photoshopping together what many Rossi fans have been speculating about: the nine-time World Champion’s new livery now that Monster is sponsoring the Yamaha Racing MotoGP team.

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Up-Close with the 2012 Zero S ZF9

03/27/2012 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

While still maintaining the product line’s general aesthetic from its previous generations, Zero Motorcycles has refined and polished its electric motorcycles for 2012. This is primarily due to the Zero’s limited amount of time to further develop its 2011 models for the 2012 model year (roughly nine months says the Californian company), but still Zero has been able to revise most of the Zero S’s components to warrant this year’s models to be visually and functionally set apart from its predecessors.

This bodes well for Zero Motorcycles, because bluntly, the startup has had extremely unrefined and unpolished motorcycles from its inception to the 2011 model year (if you heard otherwise from somewhere else, they were trying to sell you something). Walking up to the 2012 Zero S, it is immediately clear that the electric motorcycle has been touched by people who understand motorcycles. Gone are the on/off switches marked in Sharpie (I wish I was making this up), though you’d be hard-pressed to find top-shelf components on the Zero line. This makes for a mixed response regarding the bike, from a visual perspective.

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The Frog FZ750 Rana Heads to SFMOMA

03/20/2012 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Frog Design is better known for its work designing computer cases for Apple, but  in 1985 Frog Design’s Founder Hartmut Esslinger designed the Frog FZ750. A two-wheeled concept vehicle that was a Yamaha FZ750 underneath the skin, the Frog FZ750 actually helped give birth to the venerable Honda Hurricane.

Conceived just a few years after Frog Design opened its California office, the now iconic Frog FZ750 was a reaction to increasing pressure for safer motorcycles (the Yamaha FZ750 was outlawed in the Golden State at the time), and set the standard for a generation of motorcycle design to come.

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Call Your Mother Because Here is the Ultimate Ducati 1199 Panigale Photo Gallery

02/17/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati has been hogging the news the past few weeks, thanks in large part to the debut of the most important motorcycle the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has ever released. With Ducati up for sale and being valued at €1 billion, the Ducati 1199 Panigale sets the record straight that Bologna has not strayed from its sport bike and racing heritage with the release of bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel. With Ducati hosting the Panigale’s international press launch in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit (click here to let Ducati know that you wish A&R had been invited to this launch), the initial reports from the assembled press is that all the concerns about Ducati, its frameless chassis design, and its future can be laid to rest.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment…and we’ve got over 160 images of the Ducati 1199 Panigale waiting for you after the jump.

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