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.

Piaggio Group Sales Up 11% in Q1 2010

04/30/2010 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The Piaggio Group is reporting an 11.2% increase in its first quarter 2010 sales across its motorcycle and scooter subsidiaries compared to last year’s numbers. The group netted  €2.9 million for Q1, which is noticable increase from its €4.7 million loss in Q1 of 2009. For motorcycle sales alone, the company saw a 12.4% increase unit sales, with the European market leading the charge.

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First Quarter 2010 Motorcycle Sales Down 21% – March 2010 Sales Down 5%

04/28/2010 @ 9:18 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council has released the latest figures on motorcycle and industry sales for the first quarter of 2010, and the figures show a 21% decrease in motorcycle sales compared to 2009, with the industry as a whole posting a 23% loss. These statistics paint a continued doom and gloom scenario for the motorcycle industry, but there is a silver lining in the March 2010 numbers, which show an increase in some segments, and a slowing decline in the rest. Check after the jump for a full breakdown.

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Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 10% – Economy to Blame?

04/27/2010 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

In a report released by the AMA, which used data collected by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), on-road motorcycle falatities dropped by at least 10% during 2009 when compared to the year before. In 2008 there were 5,290 motorcycle deaths on US highways,  but in 2009 this figure dropped to 4,762 deaths.

2008 was a record setting year not only in motorcycle sales, but also in motorcycle fatalities. Conversely, 2009 saw a massive reduction in motorcycle sales, and a 180° turn in motorcycle fatalities. With the upward trend of total deaths mirroring the trend of increasing motorcycle sales, and now also mirroring the recent downward trend in motorcycle sales, the correlation would seem obvious, if not logical.

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Harley-Davidson Returns to Profitability

04/20/2010 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has announced its Q1 quarterly earnings today, and the Milwaukee-based company posted a $68.7 million profit. This news comes after Harley-Davidson posted a $218 million loss last quarter, and finished in the hole over $55 million for the 2009 year. Harley’s return to profitability is partially due to the company’s restructuring of its financial services, which are once again generating money for the iconic American brand. Harley-Davidson Financial Services posted a profit of $26.7 million this past quarter, almost a third of HD’s net income in Q1.

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Yamaha Raising Money for Electrics

04/02/2010 @ 12:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Yamaha Motors is set to raise $812 million in capital in order to pursue development and production of fuel-efficient engines, which includes hybrid and electric models. The focus of this new range of Yamahas seems to be destined for emerging markets, but may include technologies that could trickle into more established markets like the United States. Yamaha plans on raising this money by making 63.25 million more corporate shares publicly available for investment.

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MV Agusta Claims 50% Boost in Sales

03/26/2010 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MV Agusta has issued a press release stating that the Italian brand has seen a 50% increase in unit sales the last three months when compared to the first quarter of 2009. Unfortunately Asphalt & Rubber has no way of verifying if these numbers are accurate, but their release is certainly well-timed with the added talk in the business world surrounding MV Agusta’s divesture from Harley-Davidson.

Was Harley able to turn the brand around? Are the new F4 and Brutale selling like hotcakes? Or is this carefully seeded information to help a deal along? Only time will tell. Photos of the new MV’s after the jump.

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2010 Is Last WSBK Season For South African Track

03/23/2010 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Kyalami Grand Prix circuit is likely to host its last World Superbike race for a while this season. Located in Gauteng, South Africa, the Gauteng provincial government has bought out the track’s remaining contract with WSBK in an effort to “re-prioritize” the local government’s budget of local programs. Kyalami was set to host WSBK through 2013, but instead it looks like this will be the South African’s track last season until the Gauteng government becomes financially stable again.

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Dainese No Longer “Made in Italy” – Moves Remaining Italian Production to Tunisia

01/19/2010 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Italian apparel manufacturer Dainese, (who also owns Mavet and AGV) is shutting down its Molvena, Italy plant, and moving the bulk of its production to Tunisia. The move is presumably to help lower costs to the Italian brand, as sales have slumpped during the industry-wide economic slowdown. It’s unclear whether Dainese will open a new factory in Tunisia, or add the capacity to one of its two factories already in the North African country.

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BREAKING: Kawasaki Quits AMA Pro Racing

12/18/2009 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

ES-Infineon

Kawasaki has just announced that it will be leaving the AMA Pro Racing series. Citing the economy as it core reason for leaving the American racing series, Kawasaki says it hopes to return to road racing when the economic conditions in the United States allow the company to do so. For the DMG & AMA, this is the second manufacturer that has withdrawn from the now beleaguered racing series, and just a continuation of the momentum that has become AMA Pro Racing’s downward spiral.

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Honda Motors Profits Down 56%, Motorcycles Only Down 17% – Expects Profit in First Half of 2009

11/05/2009 @ 8:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

honda-logo

Honda has released its second quarter financials, with the highlight (if you can call it that) being a 56.2% drop in their net income. Honda attributes this loss primarily to decreased car sales, and the currency exchange. For its part though, Honda’s motorcycle sales were down only 16.8%, with 2.4 million units sold during Q2.

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