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.

More Details on the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

07/17/2015 @ 10:39 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Husqvarna is getting ready to unleash a 690cc supermoto on the world, in case you’ve missed the Swedish brand’s marketing campaign and dedicated website. Unsurprisingly, the bike is based off a comparable KTM model, though that’s not to say the folks at Husky haven’t improved on the KTM 690 Duke for their purposes.

(Re-)Releasing some tech details this week, we again know that the Husqvarna 701 will feature a ride-by-wire throttle (with three engine maps), slipper clutch (because supermoto), premium WP suspension, and what Husqvarna calls “Supermoto ABS” that is really the Bosch 9.1 MP race ABS, which allows one to still lock-up the rear wheel while the front wheel engages the ABS.

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Gas Gas Files for Bankruptcy

05/21/2015 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Gas Gas Files for Bankruptcy

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Perhaps already a reflection on the waning popularity of the brand, but the slow-to-break news this week is that Spanish motorcycle brand Gas Gas has filed for bankruptcy.

The news comes after an earlier effort by the Spanish company to try and reconcile its debt of roughly €30 million, and to restructure its business to be more profitable.

With a last-minute deal between the shareholders falling through, Gas Gas had no choice but to file with the Spanish courts.

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Teaser Campaign Begins for the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

04/21/2015 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler64 COMMENTS

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We’re not really sure why Husqvarna is creating a micro-site and teaser campaign for its soon-to-debut 701 Supermoto, after all the 690cc machine already broke cover at the 2014 EICMA show, after being teased in concept the year before.

Certainly a bike we are excited to see debut — please God, bring it to American soil! — the cat does seem a bit out of the bag at this point on the 67hp, 320 lbs, four-stroke thumper with its APTC slipper clutch, ABS brakes, WP suspension, and ride-by-wire throttle with riding modes.

That being said, the first installment sees the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto kitted out with some spiked ice tires, for some winter hooligan fun. Color us jealous…the video is after the jump.

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Husqvarna Sets All-Time Sales Record – 16,337 Motorcycles

01/29/2015 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Just a year after being acquired by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, Husqvarna Motorcycles posted an all-time sales record of 16,337 units. The tally is the most the Swedish brand has ever sold in its 111 year history, which is perhaps surprising considering the company’s tenuous history as of late.

With those record sales, Husqvarna also posted over €100 million in revenue, a key metric for the brand, as it struggles to grow into KTM’s more exclusive and upscale counterpart.

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2015 Zero Motorcycles Get ABS, Showa, & More Battery

09/29/2014 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on 2015 Zero Motorcycles Get ABS, Showa, & More Battery

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We have long been critical of Zero Motorcycles and the motorcycles they produce, but you have to give the electric motorcycle manufacturer credit where it’s due: each year they improve their product, which is more than you can say about a lot of motorcycle OEMs.

Take the 2015 Zero Motorcycle lineup for example: for the upcoming model year, Zero’s bikes get proper motorcycle suspension from Showa, anti-locking brakes (ABS) from Bosch, tires from Pirelli, and a 10% battery increase from Moore’s Law.

For the 2015 Zero SR, this means a 185 mile range, when the optional Power Tank battery pack is installed. Similar gains can be seen with Zero’s other 2015 models, the Zero S & Zero DS.

While the added battery pack helps with the range anxiety, anyone who has ever ridden a Zero will welcome the addition of Showa suspension, as the company’s previous bikes have suffered from th forks and shocks that were used, which woefully were not up to the task of hard motorcycle riding.

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Ride Review: TerraCorsa – A 195hp “Dirt Bike”

08/05/2014 @ 12:09 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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I have made a number of bad decisions in my life, some of which have come hand-in-hand with my duties here at Asphalt & Rubber. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I can certainly think of a couple machines that I have naively swung a leg over with enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, the word “prototype”, used in only the loosest of definitions, has been involved in these endeavors.

With rare occasion though, I have been able to see trouble coming ahead of time, and have either had the prudence to step out of its way, or the foolishness to forge ahead with a “what could go wrong” attitude. I would add MotoCorsa’s TerraCorsa project to that latter category.

A proper 195hp superbike, designed by Italians to win road races, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an alphabet soup of features designed to make a rider go as fast as possible on asphalt.

So when MotoCorsa’s Arun Sharma gave me an opportunity to ride his “track bike” Panigale S, which he painted in Desert Storm beige and shod with Continental TKC 80 tires, well…I of course uttered “what could go wrong?” and graciously accepted.

On its face, the whole idea of taking a superbike off-roading is preposterous. No doubt, you are already making a list of all the things wrong with this idea, while pouring a cold glass of Hatorade in the process. And you’d be right in doing so.

The suspension travel is too short, the Panigale’s 1,199cc Superquadro v-twin engine has too much power, the riding position is all wrong, and let’s just skip over mentioning that the machine is a rolling bone fide crime against motorcycling. Ducatisti, pour out an espresso for this fallen Bolognese, but be forewarned that Arun and the TerraCorsa feed off the hate that this concept brings.

Before you sharpen your pitchforks and storm the castle gates at Borgo Panigale though, let me explain briefly how putting knobby tires on a purebred superbike isn’t as bad of an idea as you think. If anything, the gods must be crazy, because it is surprising how well the whole thing works. These crazy Oregonians are onto something…

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Yamaha To Offer Electric Street Bikes by 2016

04/22/2014 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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You may remember the Yamaha PED1 and Yamaha PES1 electric motorcycle concepts, which the tuning fork brand debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Modest, yet slightly futuristic looking, the overall impression we got from readers was that Yamaha was onto something with its PED1 and PES1 bikes, and it seems the Japanese OEM has heard your excitement.

Announcing plans in its 2013 Annual Report to bring the PED1 and PES1 to market by 2016, Yamaha is yet another major OEM to jump on the electric bandwagon and add legitimacy to this budding powertrain segment.

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Gas Gas and Ossa Merge

01/24/2014 @ 11:47 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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If you thought the times are tough here in the United States, be thankful that you don’t live in Spain right now, as the Iberian country hovers around 20% unemployment for the general population, with 50% unemployment for the country’s 20-something crowd. Indeed, all the Mediterranean states, save for France, are on the verge of economic collapse. It’s a scary time.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to hear last year that the rebirth of the Ossa brand saw the Spanish dirt bike company using the available production capacity in the struggling Gas Gas factory. It seems that manufacturing partnership has now gone a step further, with Gas Gas and Ossa formerly merging, so as to better take on the rough economic landscape.

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Husqvarna to Unveil New Prototype Motorcycle at EICMA

11/01/2013 @ 4:55 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The future of Husqvarna is an interesting one to mull over right now as we gear-up for the EICMA show in Milan, Italy next week. Recently acquired by KTM’s Stefan Pierer, through is Pierer Industrie AG company, Husqvarna finds itself now merged into Husaberg, as KTM has consolidated its splintered dirt bike brands back into one cohesive effort.

That move alone in an interesting one, as Husqvarna had begun tackling the on-road world while still under the stewardship of BMW Motorrad — releasing models like the Husqvarna Nuda 900 and concepts like the Husqvarna Moab. The brand now seems destined to stay in the dirt though, but that isn’t keeping Husqvarna away from releasing prototypes and concepts at EICMA, as it seems to do every year.

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You Shall Not Pass!

08/09/2013 @ 5:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Congratulations on making it to Friday. For some, the journey to the end of the work week was tougher than it was for others. Thanks for the tip Crisit!