Kawasaki Ninja H2R – Officially 300hp of Hyperbike

It is finally time for the Kawasaki Ninja H2R to become officially official. No more teaser videos with weird chirps, no more fake news stories for pageviews, no more leaked photos (x2)…now we finally get to see what all the hype is about with this hyperbike. Though now that the time is here, it is hard to say something new about the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2R that hasn’t already been said. Rebirthing a name that is synonymous with the original superbike war between the Japanese manufactures, Kawasaki has reinstated an old game, and made a bold first move. At the heart of the new Ninja H2R is a supercharged 998cc inline-four engine which produces 300hp horsepower. You did not read that figure incorrectly.

OMG: Leaked Hi-Res Photos of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

In five hours the Kawasaki Ninja H2 will officially debut at INTERMOT…of course, the internet waits for no motorbike. In addition to the first leaked photo we brought you, we now have a bevy of high-resolution images of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, the racing sibling to the H2. The Kawasaki Ninja H2R makes an incredible 300 horsepower from its 998cc inline-four engine, a number that is achieved by the H2 & H2R’s centrifugal supercharger. That figure is much larger than some publications were reporting from their “sources” inside Kawasaki — or were just fabricating wholesale to get pageviews. From the photos, we can see that the H2 & H2R use a trellis frame, carbon fiber fairings, and single-sided swingarm, three things you don’t usually see on a Kawasaki sport bike.

Brammo eCruiser & Other Models Spied in Investor Pitch

Brammo continues to build upon its war chest of investment, and has turned to crowd-funding site EarlyShares for help in that regard. The site is targeted towards Angel-type investors, and is along the lines of a Kickstarter-style site for the wealthy and investment-minded. The news that a company like Brammo is looking to raise more capital is nothing new, nor is it terribly noteworthy, but the documents provided to EarlyShares investors are certainly worth chewing on by two-wheeled enthusiasts. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is a diagram of Brammo’s planned model lineup, which briefly appeared on EarlyShares; and among other things, shows an eCruiser model from the Oregonian company. Boom goes the dynamite.

Review: Dainese Made to Measure Leather Racing Suit

Do you ride like Valentino Rossi, or maybe just want to look like him? I ask, because that’s the premise behind Dainese’s Made to Measure program. Giving everyday riders the same opportunity and attention to detail as the company’s sponsored racers, who compete at the heightest level of the sport, Dainese’s Made to Measure program allows you to order custom-fitting racing leathers, jackets, and pants from the trusted Italian brand. The following is my experience in making a race suit with the Italian company’s custom apparel program, and since the bulk of Made to Measure orders are custom racing suits, it seems an appropriate measure for its service.

Electric Supermoto Coming from KTM Too?

We already showed you KTM’s two electric dirt bike models, the KTM Freeride E-XC and KTM Freeride E-SX, which feature a 21hp / 31 lbs•ft electric PMAC motor and a swappable 2.6 kWh lithium-Ion battery pack. The models represent KTM’s rethinking on its electric range, especially when it comes to the current limitations of electric motorcycles, and what the current state-of-technology is in this space. While the new Freeride E-XC & E-SX show KTM is moving in the right direction, the two models didn’t do a lot for our asphalt-loving hearts here at A&R. Never fear though, as rumors from Italy’s Moto.it peg a supermoto version will debut at INTERMOT.

The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Seen in This Industry

I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different. This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

More Details on the Updated 2015 BMW S1000RR

I have to say, I really like the cut of BMW’s jib. Instead of making us dance through a social media bonanza of teasers and trickle-down motorcycle specs, the German company just publishes a press release with what it plans on changing for the 2015 BMW S1000RR. As loyal readers will know, we caught the updated S1000RR out testing last month, which showed a number of subtle cosmetic and system changes to the machine. BMW Motorrad has now clued us into what those changes are, namely a revised chassis geometry. From our spy photos, we know that the S1000RR will also get the HP4’s dynamic damping control (DDC) suspension, as well as new exhaust.

Ducati Owners: You Are Not Ready for the 1299 Superbike

You would have to be living under a rock not to know about the upcoming Ducati Scrambler, Bologna has made certain of that. But as we surmised in our analysis of Scrambler’s marketing, Ducati is due to update the Panigale as well for the 2015 model year. That educated guess, it seems has been proven correct, at least in part. While Borgo Panigale will continue to sell its namesake Ducati 1199 Panigale, the Panigale R model will be replaced for 2015 by the new 1299 superbike. As such, the 1299 will be Ducati’s consumer-facing machine for its World Superbike program — a project that has been greatly affected by WSBK’s intake restrictions for v-twins — thus race teams can expect an upgraded RS15 as well to be coming forth.

Ducati 1199 Streetfighter Concept by Shantanu Jog

One of the reason we show concept sketches here on Asphalt & Rubber is to help churn the imagination of our more creative two-wheeled brethren, so it warms my soul a little bit when a reader sends me something they’ve produced, which is due in part to their daily A&R patronage. As such, A&R reader Shantanu Jog sent us these sketches he did of a 1199-based Streetfighter. As good Ducatistas will know, the chassis of the Panigale creates some challenges for a fairing-less machine, and then there is the whole thing about how the Ducati Streetfighter as model never really sold well for Borgo Panigale. Still, for those who like their superbikes with a little less plastic, the idea of an 1199 Streetfighter is certainly appealing.

BMW Confirms New S1000RR Will Debut at INTERMOT – Two More New Bikes to Debut at EICMA

We already know that BMW Motorrad has a bevy of new machines coming out for the 2015 model year, and now the Germans are ready to admit as much. Confirming that a new BMW S1000RR superbike will debut at the INTERMOT show, BMW has also teased that two more new models will also debut at EICMA. From the spy photos that we obtained, we know that the 2015 BMW S1000RR features modestly updated bodywork, a restyled exhaust, and likely features a mild engine reworking. We will have to wait a couple more weeks to get the full details though, but expect a modest hp boost, semi-active suspension, and the Bosch MSC cornering-ABS system as standard — much like the BMW HP4.

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MIC’s Electric Range Estimates

06/13/2012 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Lies, Damned Lies, & The MICs Electric Range Estimates 2011 zero 0012

Rewind a few years ago in the electric segment of the motorcycle industry, and you found a landscape where manufacturers published wildly inaccurate numbers relating to speed, range, and power. The situation of over-promising and under-delivering was so bad, virtually any figure quoted, whether it was made with the best or worst intentions, was immediately called into question. The issue of course stemmed from the fact that OEMs were unable to deliver motorcycles with specifications that were remotely acceptable to a savvy motorcycle market. 20 mile ranges? 15hp available continuously? 60 mph top speeds if you’re downhill, tucked in, have a tailwind, and add five to the speedo’s reading? Yup, those were the good old days.

As the industry matured, so did our expectations, and it looked like some sanity was going to come to fruition as the MIC began pooling interest on developing a standard to rate the various performance specifications of electric motorcycles. An industry group setup to look after the best interests of the OEMs and other business in the motorcycle industry, you only need to follow the cash to see whose best interests are really being served by this group.

So, it should not surprise us then that the latest “standard” from the MIC, which establishes criterion on how the highway mileage of an electric motorcycle should be rated, is doing a downright scandelous disservice to consumers and the industry itself, as the proposed standard massively overrates the highway range of electric motorcycles.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

No Sub 800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley Davidson Doesnt Understand Emerging Markets Harley Davidson board racer

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarnas Year? Husqvarna sales figures 635x393

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

Lawless Jakarta & Some Thoughts About Southeast Asia

01/10/2012 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Here’s a random factoid delivered in the form of a question for you: when looking at the metrics for the A&R website, A&R Twitter account, and A&R Facebook page, which city do you think is responsible for the most readers? We are an American-based website after all, so your top picks might be New York, Los Angeles, or maybe San Francisco, right? Nope. Half our traffic does come from abroad though, so maybe London? Paris? Rome? Barcelona? Wrong again dear readers, because when it comes to a single city consuming the moto-goodness that we publish on a daily basis, none of them have anything on Jakarta, Indonesia (yes, the title of article gave that one away, huh?).

I recently talked about this phenomenon with another online motojournalist, who was experiencing the same trend, and he concluded that it must be employees using proxy servers so they can read blog while at work. I disagreed however, and when looking at where the industry as a whole is currently headed, I think there is something much more basic at play here. Developing countries are the future of motorcycling, and right now Southeast Asia is a hot bed of growth for motorcycle sales. With a less developed infrastructure, and still a need to get from Point A to Point B, motorcycles provide a cheap and effective means of transportation in countries like Indonesia, and for many, motorcycles have become a way of life.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword Nicolas Petit Honda VTR 1200 concept 02 635x368

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts. While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans. While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products. Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over the great experiment 635x423

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law...Again  bug splat

Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

LCR Honda: This is How You Launch a MotoGP Team

02/01/2011 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

LCR Honda: This is How You Launch a MotoGP Team LCR Honda Playboy bunny Antonio Esposito 2 635x423

Testing has already gotten underway and concluded at Sepang today, meaning the teams of MotoGP have released their livery for the next season with varying degrees of fanfare and showmanship. It’s no surprise then that we found a couple photos of the LCR Honda RC212V adorned with a seductive Playboy bunny affixed to it, in what surely has to be the best GP team launch in 2011.

If you read Asphalt & Rubber on a religious basis (we are your motorcycling zen temple, right?), you’ve likely divined by now that I’ll chastise just about any company that uses the premise that “sex sells” (nothing boils my blood more than this cleverly short, yet misguided maxim), and that I love a good scrappy startup that’s got more hustle than funding (case in point: A&R is a penniless motorcycle startup trying to make it in this crazy online world).

So how does a the multi-million dollar motorcycle racing team with half-naked women draped all over their machinery get such accolades from our humble motorcycle blog? Because LCR Honda is the epitome of innovation on the business side of MotoGP racing.

Let’s Hype This Bitch! – 60 Day Wait for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200

05/24/2010 @ 2:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Lets Hype This Bitch!   60 Day Wait for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 2010 ducati multistrada 1200 canary islands 2 560x373

Ducati has reported that the first 500 initial pre-orders for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 have been filled, and there is now a 60 day waiting period for the new sport-tourer. Citing a strong reception to the Multistrada’s “four-bikes-in-one” capability, Ducati sees an additional 500 units to be sold in the coming months. This last statement seems sort of like a no-brainer, after-all another 500 bikes will be sold eventually, right?

Actually, the entire statement is sort of strange when you consider what 500 pre-sold orders really entails in a markets like the United States & Canada. With a plethora of dealers in these countries, the reality is that this statement amounts to dealerships pre-selling their initial inventory, which consisted of one or two motorcycles. Yes, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is sold-out for the next two month, but when you ship only 500 units to the entire North American market, you can almost guarantee being sold out on a bike during its release, right?

How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 2: Shift Your Product Lineup into New Segments

04/07/2010 @ 5:54 am, by Jensen Beeler66 COMMENTS

How to Save Harley Davidson – Step 2: Shift Your Product Lineup into New Segments RSD Cafe Sportster 2 560x373

35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout.

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.