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.

Ducati 959 Panigale Spotted – Not Much Has Changed

10/05/2015 @ 7:56 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Ducati was all the talk of last week, after its Ducati 959 Panigale and Ducati Hypermotard 739 were outed in filings with the California Air Resources Board.

According to the CARB documents, the new “middleweight” Ducati sport bike is set to get a 955cc displacement increase, though we wondered what else would change.

Now we have a pretty good answer, as “spy photos” of the production machine are floating around the internet now, which show that the 959 Panigale is very similar in shape to the 899 Panigale it replaces.

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2016 Ducati 959 Panigale Revealed in CARB Documents

09/28/2015 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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It appears one of our predictions for the 2016 model year has been confirmed, as Ducati is set to update its “supersport” model, the Ducati 899 Panigale, with a replacement.

Outed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), we know that the new model will come with a two-cylinder engine, with a 955cc displacement, and officially be called the Ducati 959 Panigale.

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Could Ducati’s New Model Be an Updated 899 Panigale?

08/05/2015 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Ducati-899-Panigale-sketch

When it comes to Ducati’s new model rumors, the only thing we know for certain is that in roughly two months’ time, the Bologna Brand will to debut, at a track in Spain, a new motorcycle.

Early speculation pegged that new model as a 1299-based Streetfighter – a model that we concluded we were unlikely to see in Spain, if for no other reason than it us a very “un-Ducati” way of launching an entirely new model motorcycle.

Taking a longer look at Ducati’s lineup, and having a few other rumors float our way, a more likely supposition would be an update/addition to the Ducati 899 Panigale, likely something along the lines of an “S” model.

The logic here is simple: 1) it isn’t crazy to see the two-year-old 899 Panigale get a refresh, 2) the model certainly fits the bill for an on-track debut, and the real kicker, 3) there is a $4,300 gap to bridge between the 899 ($14,995) and base model 1299 ($19,295).

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Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

01/15/2015 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand.

Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014.

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Pierobon’s Take on the Ducati 899 Panigale

11/05/2014 @ 5:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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When the Ducati 899 Panigale came out, there was some pushback from Ducatisti over the middleweight superbike’s double-sided swingarm. Ducati clearly had to water-down distinguish the 899 from the 1199 for would-be owners, especially after giving the Ducati 899 Panigale a near-literbike engine displacement.

We think if Ducati had fashioned the 899’s swingarm after the piece built by Pierobon, then perhaps the Italian manufacturer’s fans would have been less upset. Throw in an aluminum fuel tank, racing fairing stay, and trellis rear subframe, and you have one sharp looking 899 Panigale…and it doesn’t even have all its clothes on yet.

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Oh No, Not Again – Ducati 899 Panigale: Japan Edition

01/22/2014 @ 12:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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If you’re in the market for a Ducati 899 Panigale, and have the misfortune of living in Japan, the above is what you will be forced to buy. You see the Ducati 899 Panigale, like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and MV Agusta F3, is too loud in its stock form for the Japanese market.

Compounding the issue, the Island Nation is too small of a market for Ducati to revamp its design to meet homologation in its stock form, so an obvious quick-fix has been implemented instead.

It’s a bit of an eyesore on any model; but on the Panigale, the long carbon fiber pipe detracts from the hard work Ducati designers and engineers put into the attractive under-slung unit on the middleweight sport bike. Also of note is the revised big black plastic clutch cover, for added sound dampening.

We’re told the eyesore can be easily removed, with most dealers taking that liberty for an owner at the time of purchase, but still…somethings just aren’t right. A big hat tip to loyal A&R reader Trane for snapping these photos. The sake is on us.

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On-Board Video of the Ducati 899 Panigale at Imola

10/15/2013 @ 12:21 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber may not have been in Bologna for the international press launch for the Ducati 899 Panigale “super-mid” sport bike, so unfortunately we can’t give you any first-hand experience with Ducati’s newest sport bike (newest for a little while longer, at least).

However, we are in luck because Ducati test rider Alessandro Valia was on-hand for the event, and did some hot laps for the camera. A super nice guy and a very talented rider, we met Valia earlier this year at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R press launch, where he helped us find the right lines around the very technical Circuit of the Americas.

Now, Valia takes us for a spin around one of Italy’s most iconic circuits, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari — or as it is better know, Imola. No music, to fast-cuts, just a bike being ridden hard on a sunny afternoon. Enjoy!

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2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Mega Gallery

09/12/2013 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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By now you have heard all about the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale, Bologna’s new “supermid” sport bike. You’ve heard about the Babigale’s 898cc Superquadro motor, which produces 148hp  and 73 lbs•ft of torque.

You’ve heard about the Ducati 899’s monocoque “frameless” chassis design and 372.5 lbs dry weight. And of course, you have heard of the 899’s extensive electronics suite that includes ABS, traction control, engine braking control, and ride-by-wire.

But have you seen Ducati’s sport bike, and its double-sided swingarm? We have 117 high-resolution photos of it after the jump for, just in case you haven’t gotten a glimpse.

Remember, pricing starts at $14,995 for the red model, and  $15,295 for the white model.

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Video: Ducati 899 Panigale – Your Road to the Track

09/10/2013 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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In case you missed the news, the folks in Bologna have debuted their new “supermid” sport bike, the eagerly anticipated 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale. Like its larger sibling, the Ducati 1199 Panigale, the 899 features a “frameless” chassis design, a suite of electronic rider aids, as well as the new 148hp Superquadro engine.

Putting together a little video to help launch the machine, we figured Ducati fans and non-Ducatisti alike would enjoy the premise of this short clip, as Ducati’s test rider is portrayed as being unable to end his day with the Babigale — hopping back on the bike for one more romp. What a tough job he must have.

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2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Breaks Cover

09/09/2013 @ 9:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Confirming rumors that Borgo Panigale has been working on a smaller-displacement version of its namesake superbike, and that the machine would have a double-sided swingarm, Ducati debuted today its new “supermid” superbike, the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale.

Showcased ahead of the IAA International Motor Show, where Ducati will preview its 2014 motorcycle line, the Ducati 899 Panigale features an 898cc Superquadro motor that produces 148hp (73 lbs•ft of torque), a monocoque “frameless” chassis design (372.5 lbs dry), and a bevy of electronics (DQS, DTC, RbW, EBC, & ABS).

Priced at $14,995 (red model) & $15,295 (white model), Ducati hopes that the 899 Panigale will create a more affordable entry for motorcyclists that want to own a Ducati superbike.

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