Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 Priced at €134,900

01/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Correction: The article originally stated that the price for the RS13 was €34,900, when it is in fact €134,900. And for the love of god, don’t call Ducati Corse trying to buy one. They won’t sell a Rs13 to you.

Unless your name rhymes with Tarlos Techa, the chances of you owning a Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 are non-existent. The professional racer-only version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the Panigale RS13 is stripped of all the lights, mirrors, reflectors, and other assorted running gear that you would need to pass an inspection from the DOT, and becomes a motorcycle solely dedicated to the art of going fast.

Before any comparisons are made, it is important to note that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not exactly what ends up on the starting grid on any given Sunday, but instead is the starting point for each racing team’s development program, which sees the end result often being a 200+ hp monster on two wheels.

Getting one isn’t cheap though, as the price tag is pegged at a cool €134,900 ($180,500). A hefty price increase over the street-going Panigale R, though with all the added suspension, brakes, wheels, etc that come with the RS13 race bike, the price seems somewhat reasonable — if you can say such a thing about a nearly $180,500 motorcycle.

Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles

01/24/2013 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Visual aesthetics have always been something of import and interest to me, a trait that is probably tied into the fact that I am visual learner. So it interests me when we see subtle changes having a great affect on a design.

Take the new Repsol livery on the 2013 Honda RC213V — the simple change from black to white creates a significantly different visual understanding of the MotoGP bike, though the basic idea of the livery remains the same.

We can see the same process with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles, as the Kentucky-based Ducati shop has massaged in a bit black paint on the already stunning Ducati 1199 S Tricolore paint scheme (work by Robbie Nigl of Peach Pit Racing).

The effect? A whole new take on an already very classy looking machine. Nice work guys…now let’s talk about posting some hi-res photos next time, eh? Far too small pictures are after the jump.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

Just How Big of a Sales Hit Was the Ducati 1199 Panigale?

12/10/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

It is no secret that Ducati had high hopes for the Ducati 1199 Panigale when it debuted the machine at the 2011 EICMA motorcycle show, and the Italian superbike certainly has proven itself to be popular with new motorcycle buyers in 2012. Selling 7,500 units worldwide so far this year, the Panigale is one of Ducati’s best selling motorcycles ever, and accounts for roughly 17% of the Italian company’s sales for this year (2012 being Ducati’s best sales year ever).

A Quarter Century of Ducati Superbikes in Photos

11/19/2012 @ 9:25 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Ducati superbikes are a legend in their own right, with a racing career the spans much father back in history than just the past two decades. Grabbing press kits for the 2012 EICMA show though, I stumbled across these photos from the Ducati Museum at Borgo Panigale factory.

Starting with the Ducati 851, and going all the way forward in time to the newly released Ducati 1199 Panigale R, it is interesting to see the progression in design and technology among the models (if you are into this sort of thing, be sure to checkout our 33 years of Suzuki endurance road racing bikes post).

Get your history lesson on after the jump with some high-resolution motorcycle goodness, and be sure to mention your favorite Desmo in the comments.

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R – 201hp with Race Exhaust

11/12/2012 @ 9:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

We may have spoiled Christmas last month, as our predictions for the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R appear to be spot on as we get news from Ducati’s 2013 model year press launch at EICMA.

As expected, the highlights to the 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R are the inclusions of titanium con-rods, a lightened flywheel, DLC-coated rocker-arms, a four-point adjustable swingarm pivot-point, a 500 rpm rev boost, and a bit more power (courtesy of a full-system race exhaust and ECU).

While the “R” spec Panigale officially makes the same power as the other models, the race exhaust included with the purchase of the machine is good for a few more ponies up top, giving the Ducati 1199 Panigale R a 201hp top figure, a modest 6% gain up top, but also a 15% increase in the midrange.

Like all Panigales, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R has ABS, ride-by-wire throttle control, traction control, engine braking control, and features all the amenities on the “S” spec model, like the DDA+ data logging system.

WSBK: Team Ducati Alstare With Checa & Badovini

11/12/2012 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

All the conjecture about Ducati’s factory World Superbike team can now come to a halt, as the Italian brand has announced that Francis Batta’s Belgian organisation, Team Alstare will take over the reigns of the company’s new WSBK effort.

At the helm of the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 will be former WSBK Champion Carlos Checa, who will be joined by Ayrton Badovini. Handling Ducati’s World Superbike campaign for the next two years, Alstare takes over from Althea Racing — a move that made headlines just a week ago.