Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2R Pricing Revealed

Even though the Kawasaki Ninja H2R debuted in October at the INTERMOT show, and the Kawasaki Ninja H2 debuted a few weeks ago at the EICMA show, Kawasaki was a bit slow to release the pricing and availability details of its two supercharged machines. Releasing now details for the US market, we can quote pricing for the H2 and H2R throughout the world. In the United States, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R will cost $25,000 and $50,000 respectively. Interested parties will have to special order the bikes, before December 19th, from their local Kawasaki dealership, and buyers should note that the H2R comes with certain restrictions.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Suzuki Q2 2011 – Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters

08/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Suzuki Q2 2011   Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters Suzuki GSXR 635x396

Sometimes when reading the posts made on other motorcycle sites, or the comments by readers across the web, I don’t think there is a full grasp as to how bad the recession was for the motorcycle industry. Granted company’s like Ducati, BMW, and Victory have shown remarkable growth in a down period, but their success, though due in-part to the failures of Harley-Davidson and the Japanese manufacturers, is limited on its bearing to the industry as a whole. This because, quite frankly, these companies comprise only a small portion of the industry’s sales, units, and revenue.

The fact that Harley-Davidson was so close to the brink that they dumped everything outside of its core business is but one sign that motorcycling was in trouble. Another sign would be that Suzuki reportedly didn’t import any new units for the 2010 model years, instead letting local inventories in the US handle the dwindling demand for the company’s motorcycles. The fact that the motorcycle industry as whole almost folded-up on itself like a tin can without anyone making a real fuss about it is perhaps a great signal as to how far various stakeholders heads are buried in the sand. So for our last attempt to put things into perspective, try this one on for size:

For the first time in nearly three years, Suzuki’s motorcycle division has posted a profit…or, the last time Suzuki made money selling motorcycles was Q2 2008 (the same timeframe that Bill Gates stepped down from his daily duties at Microsoft).

BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011

07/11/2011 @ 9:13 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011 BMW K1600GT tilting headlight 635x357

BMW Motorrad continues to post improved sales in 2011, as the German manufactuer is showing a 2.1% increase for last month’s sales compared to June 2010. Selling 11,831 motorcycles in June of this year, BMW has sold 141,913 motorcycles in the first half of 2011, which means 6.3% more Bavarian motorcycles have been sold in Q1 & Q2 of 2011 compared to last year. BMW’s Boxer series is unsurprisingly leading sales for the company, fueled by the best selling big-displacement motorcycle in the world: the R1200GS.

BMW is reporting strong sales from the K1600 series as well though, with 1,255 units sold since its Spring 2011 debut. While BMW says that the new six-cylinder tourer is exceeding expectations, Husqvarna’s paltry 450 units sold last month is perhaps a bit of disappointment. Husky sales were down -57.3% for June, while year-to-date sales were down -24.2% with only 3,530 units sold in the first half of 2011.

Big Dog Motorcycles Shuts Its Doors

04/05/2011 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Big Dog Motorcycles Shuts Its Doors 2009 Big Dog Motorcycles Coyote 635x476

More bad news from the business sector this week, as reports are starting to come in that Big Dog Motorcycles has shut its doors after being taken over by the company’s creditors. With the banks halting the production line, this is effectively the end of one of the largest (if not the largest) custom motorcycle builders in the world. Cyril Huze broke the news on his blog on Monday that the company had closed its doors, but Big Dog President Mike Simmons denied that news on Monday.

However Big Dog dealers have since confirmed that company owner Sheldon Coleman has contacted them, informing them of the bank’s take over, and that the business and production would be ceasing. Coleman is reportedly planning on starting a new company that would supply parts to current Big Dog owners.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Mercedes Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings Mercedes Benz Ducati aquisition 635x423

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

Yamaha Stock Drops 10% After Earnings Report

02/15/2011 @ 7:19 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Yamaha Stock Drops 10% After Earnings Report Tokyo Stock Exchange ticker board 635x475

Investors at the Tokyo Stock Exchange were not happy with Yamaha Motor this morning, as the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer reported its 2010 earnings and 2011 forecast, and promptly saw its stock drop 10%. Despite managing to turnaround its 2010 income from the ¥216.1 billion ($2.5 billion) loss it took in 2009 to a profit of ¥18.3 billion ($219 million), Yamaha only expects to improve on these gains by just over 9% in 2011.

BMW Motorcycle Sales Up 24% in January

02/08/2011 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW Motorcycle Sales Up 24% in January BMW Concept 6 635x423

Monthly sales reports are becoming a more common occurrence from motorcycle OEMs who are actually starting to crawl out of the lower circles of motorcycle industry hell (makes you wonder about the companies not making press releases though, huh?), and accordingly BMW has posted its January 2011 numbers, which shockingly again show strong figures. Selling 4,714 units in January 2011, BMW Motorrad posted a 23.6% sales increase over January 2009’s numbers (3.814 units). Achtung!

America Expected to Continue Using Less Gasoline

01/03/2011 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

America Expected to Continue Using Less Gasoline oil barrels 635x421

Gasoline demand in the United States hit an all-time high in 2006, and ever since then has been on the decline. Aided by rising prices, more efficient vehicles, and a slowing population growth, the United States as a whole is not only using less gas than before the recession, but we as a country have entered into a continued trend of decreased gasoline demand, which government officials and industry executives believe will be a permanent trend from this point forward. While current usage is about 8% less than the 2006 peak, experts expect to see as much as a 20% reduction in gasoline use by 2030.

Fiat Officially Says Ciao to Yamaha

01/03/2011 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Fiat Officially Says Ciao to Yamaha Fiat Yamaha goodbye 635x448

This weekend, Fiat and Yamaha unsurprisingly and officially ended their four-year relationship. The first non-tobacco title sponsor in the four-stroke MotoGP category, Fiat joined up with Yamaha in 2007, when MotoGP switched to the 800cc format. Originally justifying the sponsorship as a way to reach a car-buying audience that was younger than Formula 1 fans, Fiat has always had its eye on the Italian rider. That relationship has manifested itself in Rossi testing with Ferrari on numerous occasions, and prompted the nine-time World Champion to consider kart racing after his motorcycling career is over.

Federal Reserve Discloses $2.3 Billion Short-Term Loan to Harley-Davidson – $3.3 Trillion in Total to Others

12/02/2010 @ 4:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Federal Reserve Discloses $2.3 Billion Short Term Loan to Harley Davidson   $3.3 Trillion in Total to Others american flag eagle 635x476

The Federal Reserve made disclosures today that it quietly made short-term loans to major institutions and Fortune 500 companies during the 2008-2009 economic meltdown. Among one of the companies listed as receiving a 3-month Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) promissory note from the Fed is Harley-Davidson, which received 33 loans totaling $2.3 billion in aid to meet operational needs. Other companies who received economic help include GE (12 loans totaling $16 billion), Verizon (two loans totaling $1.5 billion). Commercial paper was also purchased from McDonalds, UBS ($74.5 billion), AIG ($60.2 billion) and Dexia ($53.5 billion).

The concept of “buying paper” has been mislabeled by other sources as a bailout from the Fed, despite the fact that loans made by the Federal Reserve differ from the bailouts we saw for the auto and banking industries both by being for a short-term duration, and because they only replaced other short-term cash flow loans that disappeared during the financial crisis (that’s what you get for getting financial news from a motorcycle site that spells Warren Buffett’s name like a meal from which guests server their own food, and then over reports his lending amount to Harley-Davidson by over three-fold).

If anything this news shows the great lengths the Federal Reserve had to take in order to keep the credit market open for major American businesses and institutions. It should be noted that because of the Fed’s efforts these companies were able to receive the cash flow and short-term loans to stay afloat during the crisis, and now that the CPFF program is over, the Federal Reserve reports that it not only was paid back in-full by every borrower, but also made money on the interest of all the loans ($849 million in total).

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009

09/14/2010 @ 6:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009 open road median 560x373

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle deaths in the United States dropped by 16% in 2009 compared to the number of deaths in 2008. With 4,462 deaths in 2009 and 5,312 deaths in 2008, this makes for the first time motorcycle death tolls have dropped in the past decade; however federal officials are reluctant to call this a victory in rider safety.

“While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn’t a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations.