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.

How Much Does a Motorcycle Crash Cost?

11/29/2012 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

In 2010, 439,678 motorcycles were sold in the United States. In that same year, 82,000 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle crashes, and 4,502 were killed. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the direct cost of these motorcycle crashes was $16 billion or more. Thirty-times more likely to die in a vehicle accident, the typical fatal motorcycle crash costs an estimated $1.2 million according to the report, while non-fatal crashes range from $2,500 to $1.4 million depending upon the severity of the injuries and incidents.

In making its recommendations to curtail the costs associated with motorcycle crashes, the GAO says that only effective measure is the mandatory use of a motorcycle helmet. Citing several studies that say motorcycle helmets reduce the fatality rate of motorcycle crashes by 39%, the GAO also cites the NHTSA, which says that motorcycle helmets prevented 1,550 deaths in 2010. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) says helmets saved the economy $3 billion in those 1,550 instances.

This information seems to confound Jeff Hennie, Vice President of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), who told the Associated Press that his group is “100% pro-helmet, and 100% anti-helmet law,” and went on to state that “putting a helmet law in place does not reduce motorcycle fatalities.” The MRF has the stated goal of promoting motorcycle education and training, but a track record of ignoring the prior, while failing to achieve the latter.

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BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where?

03/07/2012 @ 1:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad released yet another glowing sales report, as the German brand continues to build steam and market share in an otherwise luke warm and uncertain marketplace. Boasting a 1.8% worldwide sales increase in February and a 5.6% year-to-date (YTD) sales increase, BMW Motorrad has sold 12,078 motorcycles worldwide thus far in 2012. While the gains are modest at best, the news that BMW has found a way to grow despite the economy is something we have talked about ad nauseam. As such, I almost skipped this press release all together for our coverage, but then I saw a quote from Hendrik von Kuenheim, BMW Motorrad’s General Director.

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MotoGP: Portuguese GP is a Go for 2012

02/15/2012 @ 3:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on MotoGP: Portuguese GP is a Go for 2012

After much speculation that MotoGP would forego stopping in Portugal this year, the premier motorcycle racing series will keep five stops on the Iberian peninsula on its 2012 MotoGP Championship calendar after all. With the Portuguese GP struggling to make ends meet, it was thought that Estoril would be dropped for 2012, as it seemed increasingly clear that the local government was not going to step in and help subsidize the cost of hosting MotoGP in Portugal. Coming to some sort of accord with Dorna & the FIM, MotoGP has confirmed that Estoril will remain on the schedule for this year, though its future is certainly still tenuous.

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S1000RR Still BMW’s Top-Selling Bike in the USA

01/13/2012 @ 3:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad crushed it last year by posting its best sales year ever, and finishing in sales 6.4% over 2010. With the United States being one of BMW’s largest motorcycle markets, it comes as no surprise then that the German brand posted strong sales here in the US. Up 7.4% over last year, BMW Motorrad USA continues to weather the rough economy for the Bavarians, which is perhaps unsurprising considering how zie Germans have faired the past few years.

What is surprising though is which model topped BMW’s sales sheets, and in case you are blind and didn’t see this story’s headline, it was not the venerable GS. Taking the superbike fight straight to the Japan’s backyard, the BMW S1000RR again dominated sport bike sales again in 2011, and was BMW’s top-selling model across its whole motorcycle line-up (I’d love to see the profits per model on this though). Proof that when German engineering is coupled with Japanese pricing a consumer hit is born, the S1000RR should continue to be a potent bike in 2012, as BMW Motorrad has given the liter bike a mild update for its third year of production.

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BMW Motorrad Sales Up 6.5% for Q3 2011

11/10/2011 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

A mixed quarter for BMW Motorrad, as the Bavarian company has once again posted a positive sales quarter of 6.5% growth over Q3 2010, despite losing money overall in the current inclement financial weather. Selling 28,862 units in this year’s third quarter, BMW Motorrad’s sales, as usual, were primarily carried by the BMW brand, which sold 26,312 motorcycles.

Perhaps lending even further credibility to the business case for the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Swedish motorcycle brand accounted for only 2,550 units in Q3 2011 (or just under 9% of total sales, for those keeping score). Independently, the BMW motorcycle brand was up 7.4% over last year’s same time period, while Husqvarna sales were down 1.9%. BMW & Husqvarna sold 24,493 & 2,601 units respectively during last year’s third quarter.

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

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

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).

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BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011

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

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.

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Big Dog Motorcycles Shuts Its Doors

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

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.

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Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

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

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.

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Yamaha Stock Drops 10% After Earnings Report

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

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.

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