So You Say You Want a Small, Light, & Cheap ADV Bike?

Comments on certain stories are predictable, and as such, we always expect some enduro rider to show up on an ADV story, and lament the weight of the bike in question, calling it too heavy to really go off-road. That argument is bullshit, of course. Though, it is easier to handle a lightweight machine in the dirt than a heavy one, but you would be surprised at how capable any motorcycle is with a pair of knobby tires on it. Just in case you are not convinced, we have got a little something for you. Behold the Benelli TRK 502. It’s got the profile of a condor, but the little 500cc adventure-tourer looks like it should do the job you are asking of it. Benelli really is the standout brand at this year’s EICMA show, with its models showing some depth to the once revered Italian brand.

2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello Scrambler

It was 1967 when Moto Guzzi first introduced the Stornello scrambler to the US market, and now for 2016 the Stornello scrambler returns. Using the Moto Guzzi V7II platform for this rebirth, the 48hp 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello is a fetching motorcycle with dubious off-road ability – not that the latter really matters in this all-show, no-go space. Honestly, we can’t fault Moto Guzzi for trying, as the Italian brand seems to be gravitating towards the heritage demographic, which is currently inundated with “post-authentic” retro models, and as such the scrambler is the moto du jour in the industry – the 2015 EICMA show is proof of that. In those terms, the 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello excels well, even if its 410 lbs mass doesn’t.

Victory Ignition Concept Is A Very Sporty Cruiser

It had been widely rumored that Victory Motorcycle would launch a sportier offering, using the 60° water-cooled 1,200cc engine that powered the Project 156 race bike almost to the top of Pikes Peak. The new model is a tectonic shift for Victory, which also this year debuted its first electric model – though the Empulse TT is really just a rebadged Brammo Empulse R. Debuting the Ignition concept at the 2015 EICMA show today though, it’s clear that Victory Motorcycle is becoming more than a modern alternative to Harley-Davidson and the metric cruisers from Japan. The design is attractive, even to our sport-bike focused eyes. That’s due in part to designer Urs Erbacher, who specializes in custom-styled drag bikes.

2016 Benelli Leoncino Brings Back the Lion Cub

Benelli is not a brand we usually talk about with great reverence, as the Italian company has steadily lost its luster since its acquisition by China’s Qianjiang Group. Benelli’s motorcycles were never known for being terribly reliable, and unfortunately the artful designs that they exuded have slowly eroded away over time. The big announcement for Benelli at the 2015 EICMA show is the new Benelli Leoncino, the “lion cub” model that’s rooted in Benelli’s post-WWII history. This modern take on the classic Benelli Leoncino is an attractive scrambler model, which makes 47hp from its 500cc parallel-twin engine. This also means that the Benelli Leoncino a well-suited A2 license machine in Europe, and its wire-spoked wheels are 19″ in the front and 17″ in the rear, and should make the Leoncino surprisingly adapt at light off-road use.

Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe Is “Pinnacle Weird”

We present you with perhaps the strangest motorcycle to debut at the 2015 EICMA show. The Bimota Tesi 3D champions the hub-center steering chassis design, and is one of the more unique motorcycles in the industry right now. Its design is positively futuristic, so it is a little strange that Bimota is trying to make the Tesi 3D into a café racer with the launch of the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe. Powered by the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that’s found in the Scrambler series, you can tell that Bimota is trying to latch onto the post-heritage trend that is dying a slow death in the motorcycle industry, but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet.

Bimota Impeto, Supercharger Optional

The Bimota range has a long history of Ducati-powered machines, as the Italian brand has been used the most out of all the motorcycle manufacturers to power Bimota’s street and race bikes. The Bimota Impeto adds another Ducati-powered model to the slew of others, but it differentiates itself as the only 162hp streetfighter in the lineup. If the Impeto looks familiar to the Bimota DB8, there’s good reason, as the two bikes share the Ducati Diavel’s Testastretta 11° DS engine. As such, the chromoly steel chassis share a number of components, leaving most of the differences down to styling choices between the two liquid-cooled models. Our personal favorites are the exhaust and seat, which mirror each other with a rising flair.

The Aprilia RSV4 R-FW Misano Is Basically a MotoGP Bike

The Aprilia Factory Works program is easily the most ridiculously awesome thing to come out of the 2015 EICMA show because it offers regular consumers (with a healthy pocketbook) the chance to own a 230hp+ Aprilia RSV4 superbike, just like what they race in the World Superbike Championship…and very close to what they race in MotoGP. Aprilia was a little vague though on what the Factory Works program entailed, but thankfully today at the EICMA show they clarified what exactly would be available from Aprilia Racing. Coming up with five trim-levels for the RSV4 superbike, Aprilia has basically answered every track day enthusiast’s / amateur racer’s wet dream, and distracted us from the fact that the Noale company has a woefully aging product lineup.

Here is What the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Will Look Like

As we predicted, Suzuki has debuted a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike at the EICMA show, though before you get your hopes too high, we should preface that the model is actually the Suzuki GSX-R1000 concept. Suzuki clearly isn’t ready to bring the GSX-R1000 to market in-time for the 2016 model year, and our sources tell us that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Concept will in fact be the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, which will debut in the second half of 2016. That being said, the news is an exciting development from Suzuki, which says that the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the lightest and most powerful superbike ever from the Japanese manufacturer. To our eye, it looks to be the most advanced as well.

Erik Buell Racing Deal Falls Thru – Will Be Sold…Again

The situation around Erik Buell Racing is rapidly becoming comical, as the American motorcycle brand is headed back to auction, after its sale to Bruce Belfer failed to close. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Erik Buell Racing will go back to the auctioning block on December 10th, because Belfer was unable to secure financing on his $2.25 million purchase price for Erik Buell Racing. As has become the trend among Buell-loyalists, Belfer blames Hero MotoCorp for the failure of his deal to close. “They (Hero) went in before we closed and started to remove things, to the point where an entire warehouse was moved,” Belfer said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Yamaha MT-10 Is Not Your Grandpa’s FZ-1

Perhaps a model whose debut is obvious to us now, hindsight always being 20/20, Yamaha has just dropped the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 on us at this year’s EICMA show. The Yamaha MT-10 helps round out Yamaha’s MT brand, with affordable and edgy models available from 125cc all the way up to now 1,000cc. Without even riding the Yamaha MT-10 we are fairly certain that this street bike, with its Yamaha YZF-R1 race track DNA, is a hoon to ride with its over-abundance of personality – it would have to, with a face like that. There is no word yet if the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 will come to the USA, potentially supplanting the Yamaha FZ-1 from its perch. Considering how different those two bike demographics are though, we have a hard time seeing it.

Motorcycling 2.0: Rethinking the Definition of a Motorcyclist

03/03/2014 @ 4:44 pm, by Aakash Desai63 COMMENTS


As it currently goes, I merely need to adopt the correct lifestyle aesthetics in the form of bikes and apparel and I can be part of the “club”; the actual identity of what it means to be a “rider” is devoid of the qualities that make us human and participants in society.

There are Harley riders, BMW riders, customs riders, leather-clad sport bike riders, and hipster cafe racers. In each of these demographic fragments, the specifics of what the person is riding matters more than the political, social, and/or economic standpoints of the riders themselves.

This consumerist mentality relegates the means for participation to the choice of how to exercise my purchasing power. Dominant motorcycle culture emphasizes the bike as the expression of the identity of the rider.

An apathetic culture that is centered around fetishization of commodities will reach limits to growth. Sure, motorcycles will get faster, lean better, safer, and smarter than the ones available to us. However, the market is already saturated with choices without enough reasons to pick one choice over the other.

Imagine, however, that being a motorcyclist meant more than just having two wheels spinning between your legs.

Why Asphalt & Rubber Supports Riders for Health

10/03/2013 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS


You would have to be living in a hole not to have heard about the video footage of a Range Rover plowing through a group of motorcyclists, and the chase through New York that ensued afterwards.

I say this not because the video has been the highest trafficked article on Asphalt & Rubber this week so far, though it is; nor do I say this because the video has been posted to virtually every motorcycle forum and blog on the internet, though it has; but instead because the video has elevated itself out of our obscure sport and into the national, if not international, public consciousness.

It is rare that motorcycling finds its way into mass media, and unfortunately it is rarely a good thing when it does so. Motorcycling by and large has an image problem in the United States. Few motorists commute via motorcycle, which means our industry is filled with people who come to motorcycles from either a hobby, sport, or lifestyle perspective, and because of this motorcycles remain on the fringe of mainstream society.

For some, that is the allure. Motorcycling is “something different’ which in turns allows a motorcyclist to express their individuality in an obvious manner. To illustrate this point, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of flame threads that start on forums and blogs can be boiled down to the premise that because your enjoyment of motorcycles is different from my enjoyment of motorcycles, it therefore must be wrong.

Ducati, Sometimes It’s Like I Don’t Even Know You

08/23/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS


I had a good chuckle last week, you see one of my Facebook groups posted up some rumors they heard about the upcoming Ducati middleweight sport bike — namely that it would have a double-sided swingarm. “That’s ludicrous,” I said to myself, as I posted an even snarkier reply to the Facebook (oh sweet internet, how you bring the asshole out in all of us).

Hrmm…well, it appears I was wrong, as spy photos of the “Ducati 899 Panigale” surfaced just days later, and sure enough, there is a double-sided swinger bolted onto the Babigale™.

While it surely gets my goat that I was pie-in-the-face wrong on this rumor (on Facebook no less), what really grinds my gears was that the new model from Borgo Panigale flies in the face of my basic understanding of how Italy’s iconic motorcycle brand even thinks.

Op-Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots

06/23/2013 @ 9:27 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS


In 1952, Doris Lessing, a Nobel prize-winning author, was one of a group of writers and prominent intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union, then in the iron grip of Joseph Stalin, one of history’s greatest criminals and murderers. She was introduced to the political leaders of the country, and escorted around the nation by the Russian secret police. Lessing, along with the others on the trip, returned home to write gushing praise of the Soviet Union, describing it as ‘a land of hope.’

In her later years, Lessing wrote a damning condemnation of her own naiveté during the visit. “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.” She had seen only what had been shown to her, believed what her guides – all of whom worked for the secret police – told her, and accepted the testimony of the workers she spoke to, workers who had been carefully selected, and briefed to project the right message, or sufficiently intimidated to not let any of the real truth slip.

A ‘useful idiot’ is exactly how I feel all too often working in the MotoGP paddock. With no formal training in journalism, and only my gut instinct to follow, it is hard to sift out the underlying facts from the fiction being projected all around me. Most of motorcycle racing journalism – in fact, most of sports journalism – relies almost entirely on the word of others.

A journalist will speak to a rider, or a team manager, or an engineer, or a press officer, and write a news story based on what they have just been told. If they are a good journalist, they will try and verify what they have been told by checking with other sources. If they want to sell newspapers, they will write what suits them, and let the checking be damned.

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici

02/19/2013 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS


Just over 18 months ago, I wrote a long analysis of what I believed at the time was the main problem with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP machine. In that analysis, I attributed most of the problems with the Desmosedici to the chosen angle of the V, the angle between the front and rear cylinder banks.

By sticking with the 90° V, I argued, Ducati were creating problems with packaging and mass centralization, which made it almost impossible to get the balance of the Desmosedici right. The engine was taking up too much space, and limiting their ability to adjust the weight balance by moving the engine around.

Though there was a certain logic to my analysis, it appears that the engine angle was not the problem. Yesterday, in their biweekly print edition, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto published an article by Neil Spalding, who had finally obtained photographic evidence that the Honda RC213V uses a 90° V, the same engine angle employed by the Ducati Desmosedici. Given the clear success of the Honda RC213V, there can no longer be any doubt that using a 90° V is no impediment to building a competitive MotoGP machine.

The photographic proof comes as confirmation of rumors which had been doing the rounds in the MotoGP paddock throughout the second half of the 2012 season. Several people suggested that the Honda may use a 90° angle, including Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi, speaking to back in November.

I had personally been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a naked RC213V engine at one rain-soaked race track in September, but while the glimpse through the window may have been good enough to form the impression of an engine that looked like it may have been a 90°V, it was a very long way from being anything resembling conclusive, and nowhere near enough to base a news story on.

Spalding’s persistence has paid off, however. The British photographer and journalist is a common sight wandering among the garages, either first thing in the morning, as the bikes are being warmed up, or late at night, while the mechanics prepare the machines for the following day.

At some point, the Honda mechanics and engineers – protective to the point of prudishness of displaying any part of their machine to the outside world – would let their guard slip. When they did, Spalding pounced.

So why did Honda elect to use an engine layout which is blamed for causing Ducati so much trouble? And how does Honda make the layout work where Ducati have continued to fail? The first question is relatively simple to answer; the second is a good deal more tricky.

How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling

10/05/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.

Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.

For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).

The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.

This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.

As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.

The Four Killer Apps of the Electric Motorcycle

07/03/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Electric motorcycles: love them or hate them, our two-wheeled future is here my riding brethren. I can hear the collective groan of petrol-heads as this subject is broached though. Yes, it is hard to get excited about electric motorcycles in their current state, and why should you be excited about them? I may not blindly gush about electrics as much as the Kool-aid drinking EV crowd does, but I’m decisively on the pro-electric side of the debate. Yet, even I have a hard time looking at what is available on the market, and imagining a scenario where my hard-earned blogging dollars would grab an electric motorcycle over its internal combustion counterpart.

Part of the reason is that there is no real appealing reason to go electric at this point in time. Oh sure, you can do your part to save the environment, though the net-effect with our coal-dependent energy infrastructure will still play a tremendous detriment on the reality of one-less petrol-burning motorcycle on the road. That being said, electricity out of a home outlet is super-cheap, out of someone else’s outlet it is even cheaper, and the “where our power comes from” debate really should be looked at as separate from the green-vehicle debate. Of course, the break-even analysis on the total cost of owning a 250cc motorcycle compared to even the most robust electric motorcycle is still fairly dubious — and let’s be honest, grouping the current offering of electric motorcycles in with a 250cc commuter bike is probably a disservice to the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R’s of the world.

So with all the Negative Nancy about electrics, why am I still talking about them? Because there is tremendous potential with a fully digital powertrain, that’s why. Forget the CD vs. tape cassette analogy, this is a Pandora vs. LP shift in technology — but we just don’t have a killer app yet for electric motorcycles. Defined as “the concept that a singular feature is so prolific that its proves the core value of a larger technological system, often driving consumers to make a purchasing decision on the product or system that highlights the feature,” it is clear that electric motorcycles have yet to define the advantage they represent to motorcyclists — not because there is no value in the system, but because electric motorcycle manufacturers have failed to provide the killer app to their core technology.

As it stands now, electric motorcycles are basically conventional motorcycles with batteries and motors that replace fuel tanks and engines. It is the same basic offering that we have had since the turn of the century, except with three times the cost, forty times the refuel time, and a quarter of the range. While the big hold-up for electrics, battery technology, is still advancing rapidly, at the end of the day consumers are still be making apples-to-apples comparisons between internal combustion and electric motorcycles because only the most basic elements of this new technology is being offered by electric OEMs (i.e. getting you from Point A to Point B).

There is a tremendous amount at stake for electric motorcycle OEMs beyond just the basics of the market status quo, as the first electric motorcycle OEM that figures out how to deliver a killer app to the electric motorcycle space, is going to be the first electric motorcycle company to find real traction with the born-on-gasoline motorcycle riding masses. Progressing from immediate needs to long-term goals, I have compiled a roadmap of four killer apps that the electric motorcycle space needs to bring to market. Each killer app builds off the next, and the whole exercise concludes on what I believe is the most important idea in motorcycling. Now, who is going to be the first to make these ideas a reality?

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

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

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

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

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.