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.

Recall: Ducati Scrambler

12/29/2016 @ 10:41 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Ducati is recalling over 5,500 units of its Scrambler motorcycles for a faulty kickstand pivot nut, which can potentially detach from the motorcycle. The recall affects 2015 and 2016 model year bikes, manufactured between February 17, 2015 and November 11, 2016.

If the pivot nut loosens or detaches, it can cause the kickstand position sensor not to function properly, which can lead to either the motorcycle stalling, or the rider being able to operate the motorcycle with the kickstand still down. Either scenario is potential dangerous.

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Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – Got Roost?

11/07/2016 @ 9:53 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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As expected for EICMA, Ducati has two new models to add to its Scrambler sub-brand, the first being the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – a long-suspension Scrambler model with some added off-road chops.

The name is of note, giving a nod to the scrambler-style street bikes that competed in events like the iconic LA-Barstow-Vegas races several decades ago.

Picking up on that vintaged past, Ducati has unsurprisingly created its own modern riff on the dirt sled style, and produced a proper scrambler at the same time.

Now with five models in its Scrambler lineup, Ducati finally has a machine that is ready to get its feet properly dirty. We expect this bike to be a big hit with a wide gamut of riders who are looking for back-to-basics dual-sport machines.

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Here is the Aptly Named Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

11/07/2016 @ 9:43 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The other addition to Ducati’s vintage lineup, the aptly named Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer adds the last missing piece to Ducati’s post-authentic puzzle: a café racer model.

Following the trend that so many other OEMs have followed, Ducati has wisely used its Scrambler sub-brand for its café racer offering, which features an old-school 803cc air-cooled platform that is easy to own, and cheap to buy.

Tastefully styled, the 75hp machine should be very attractive to retro-focused riders, or those who are simply looking for a basic street bike to add to their garage.

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Ducati Scrambler Café Racer Cometh Soon

10/19/2016 @ 12:26 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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In addition to bringing the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled to market at the upcoming EICMA show, Ducati will pair its off-road focused scrambler model with a café racer version of the Scrambler, which has cleverly been named the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer.

The models will use the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that we’ve seen already in the Scrambler lineup, and as you would expect, the machine will have the typical café racer aesthetic, with a round headlight and bullet fairing.

As with all of the Scrambler Ducati lineup, you can expect customization to be a big part of the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer’s appeal. Keep an eye out for its debut, November 7th in Milan, Italy.

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Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Teased for EICMA Debut

10/18/2016 @ 11:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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We know from filings with the California Air Resources Board that we should expect two new Scrambler models for the 2017 model year – a “DS” model and a “CR” model.

With photos of a long-travel suspension Scrambler circulating, we assumed that the “DS” designation stood for “dual-sport”, but the latest teaser video from Ducati corrects our almost-right assumption.

While Ducati will indeed launch a more off-roady Scrambler model, as we expected, the 803cc machine will be called the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, an homage to the Baja-busting bikes of yore that carried the same name.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #34 – Doohickey

09/27/2016 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Episode 34 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts off by using the two new Ducati Scrambler models, which were spotted in CARB filings earlier this month, as a jumping off point to talk about how motorcycle manufacturers are chasing the post-authentic biker movement.

We then opine a bit about the apparent decline in the number of scrambler and café racer builds we are seeing in the custom motorcycle scene right now, and how we think that superbikes from the 1980s could be the next platform of choice for bike builders.

This takes the show into a discussion about the rise of electronics, and how they not only affect the motorcycle hobbyist, but also custom motorcycle builders. We then finish up the show with a listener question that asks about for selling advice on a heavily customized Japanese motorcycle.

There might be a revolving KLR joke in there as well…all in all, it’s another classic Two Enthusiasts Podcast show.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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What It’s Like to Party with 81,000 Ducati Fans

08/04/2016 @ 5:10 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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“It’s like drinking from a firehose” is the phrase I would use over and over while telling people about my recent trip to this year’s World Ducati Week.

The three-day event attracted 81,000 rabid Ducati fans through the gates of the Misano race track, which is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s Adriatic Coast. One of the best race tracks in the world, along one of Italy’s best beaches…the recipe for success here might seem obvious.

Beyond these factors though, World Ducati Week itself is a magnet event that attracts Ducatisti from the world over by offering them the ultimate Ducati experience.

Strangely enough though, you don’t even have to be a Ducati fan to attend – though it helps – as WDW2016 is something that any motorcyclist can enjoy.

For my part in this, I will admit to having more than one Ducati in my garage (none on press loan, mind you), so consider my glass of Kool-aid aptly filled, but truthful Ducati has put together a motorcycle enthusiast agenda that other brands and venues should take note of .

As such, World Ducati Week is a great example of how to get motorcyclists excited about being…well, motorcyclists.

Ducati does this by having no shortage of events and spectacles for fans to enjoy, and while the venue is a race track, most of what makes World Ducati Week special doesn’t take place on the Misano Circuit itself.

Instead, the key to World Ducati Week’s success is the carnival atmosphere, that immerses attendees in the very best that the Ducati brand has to offer.

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Some Photos from the Scrambler Races at WDW2016

07/05/2016 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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If you have been following Asphalt & Rubber for the past week, you would know I was just in Italy for World Ducati Week. A bi-annual gathering of Ducatisti from around the world, for three days the Misano circuit and surrounding areas are flooded with Ducati motorcycles.

The tagline for WDW2016 was “More than Red” and part of that credo is a nod to the addition of the Scrambler Ducati line, with the yellow-colored “Land of Joy” sitting in prominence at the circuit’s entrance.

With the Scrambler too came a new event for World Ducati Week, flat track racing, which featured eight GP and SBK riders competiting on Misano’s TT-styled flat track course. In competition were Andrea Dovizioso, Troy Bayliss, Tati Mercado, Davide Giugliano, Danilo Petrucci, Yonny Hernandez, and Alessandro Valia.

The racing was head-to-head, with a pair of riders battling against each other over three laps, from a staggered start of 100 meters or so. It was good fun to watch, and the crowd seemed into it. I only took a few shots from the races, but thought I’d share them with you.

Above “Desmo Dovi” on the gas, and on his way to a race win. There’s more after the jump.

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Ducati Debuting Two New Bikes at World Ducati Week

06/15/2016 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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If you’re attending this year’s World Ducati Week, then you’re in for a treat, as Ducati is set to debut two new bikes at the gathering in Misano.

Details are thin at the moment, but we do know that one of the machines will be a limited-edition motorcycle that celebrates Ducati’s 90th anniversary.

Meanwhile the other bike is a new model to the Ducati range, which will be shown in a “closed room” setting as a sort of sneak peak before its official launch.

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Ducati Sold 54,800 Bikes in 2015 – Another Record

01/14/2016 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014.

Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls.

“The record sales of 2015 are the result of our company’s courage and skill,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.

“Ducati closes 2015 with record volumes and also a substantial growth of 22% over 2014. During the year Ducati not only launched successful new motorcycles, but also a new brand, Ducati Scrambler, which immediately won global acclaim with over 16,000 sales worldwide.”

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