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.

Bimota DB9 Brivido – The Best Looking Diavel Yet

11/16/2011 @ 2:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Astute readers this week would have noticed our coverage of the Bimota DB10 Bimotard, and wondered how the boutique Italian firm jumped from the DB8 to the DB10 designation. Well yes Virginia, there is a DB9. The Bimota DB9 Brivido arrived to the 2011 EICMA show with slightly less fanfare, but its still a classic example of the motorcycle company’s current design and ethos. Based around the 162hp Testastretta 11° motor from the Ducati Diavel, the DB9 Brivido continues the aesthetics that began with the Ducati Superbike 1198-powered DB8, and works in the more streetable maintenance-friendly Diavel motor.

Like every Bimota, the real masterpiece is the chassis that the Italian company builds around the production motors of other companies. In the case of the Bimota DB9 Brivido, the frame is made from both aluminum and a chromoly alloy, while the forks are 43mm Marzocchi units with the rear shock being from Extreme Tech. Brakes are of course Brembos, while the race exhaust is by Arrow. Bimota quotes the dry weight of the Bimota DB9 Brivido as 177kg (390 lbs), though true to the Italian company’s form, that weight can get further reduced with other premium options.

Continue Reading

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore

11/15/2011 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The pinnacle of Ducati’s Superbike offering for 2012 is the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore. Incorporating the key features from the Ducati 1199 Panigale S, like its traction control (DTC), electronic quick-shifter (DQS), forged Marchesini wheels, and Öhlins-made Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) front forks and rear TTX shock, the Tricolore package adds anti-locking brakes and the GPS-assisted DDA+ Ducati Data Acquisition system as standard items to Tricolore’s technical list.

Add in bounty of carbon fiber, and a stunning three-color paint scheme (hence the name), and you’ve got a stellar motorcycle that should please all of a rider’s senses. Helping celebrate Italy’s 150 year anniversary of unification, the Tricolore is Ducati’s ultimate expression of Italian design and engineering. Up-close the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Tricolore instantly makes the plain Rosso Corsa-clad Panigale look pedestrian and commonplace, which is a shame. However, if this is the new Corse paint scheme for future bikes, we could get used to that.

Continue Reading

Up-Close with the Bimota DB10 Bimotard

11/14/2011 @ 12:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Making its debut at the 2011 EICMA show, the Bimota DB10 Bimotard is the boutique Italian motorcycle firm’s latest creation. Borrowing from the Bimota DB6’s frame design, the DB 10 Bimotard takes the same 1,078cc air-cooled two-valve Hypermotard 1100 EVO motor, with its 95hp peak power output, and builds around this platform a compelling maxi-motard design. Perhaps better labelled as Bimota’s take on building a better Hypermotard, the Bimota DB10 Bimotard also promises the usual Bimota design and exclusivity, and helps bridge the gap to the Italian company’s latest off-road offerings, which are amazingly less-compelling, vanilla, and not going to grace the pages of A&R.

Carbon fiber, Marzocchi suspension, Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, and Zard exhaust…all the usual suspects are present on this cleverly portmanteau-named Bimotard. The fit and finish in person is what you’d expect from Bimota: flawless. A part of me says that you have to praise the small Italian company for breaking from its recent tradition of glorified street-naked motorcycles a bit, and offering a motorcycle with a slightly different ethos. That being said, the Bimota DB10 Bimotard isn’t really that huge of a departure from the DB5, DB6, and DB8s that came before it. A Bimota DB6 with different clothes on, the DB10 is really more evolution than revolution, but it still manages to please us…just not wow us. No price yet, but “cheap” is a four-letter word here.

Continue Reading

MV Agusta Tricruiser Concept – A 675cc Sport-Tourer?

11/14/2011 @ 8:39 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Walking around the halls of the 2011 EICMA show, I saw this concept for an MV Agusta tourer sitting in the Motociclismo booth, and wondered what was the story behind the bike. Luckily the internet has answers for such questions, and it turns out that the MV Agusta Tricruiser is the brainchild of students at Istituto Europeo di Design of Turin (IED).

Using the MV Agusta F3 as a starting point, the graduate students at IED set out to envision the next iteration in MV Agusta’s smaller-displacement platform. With the Italian company under tremendous pressure to become profitable, MV Agusta must increase its volume by a factor greater than 10x if it wants to see blank ink on its balance sheet.

Accordingly, the company from Varese has been making a bevy of variations of its F4-based models, showing three new Brutale street-nakeds at EICMA (Brutale 920, Brutale R 1090, & Brutale RR 1090) at ECIMA, along with two F4 superbikes (F4R & F4RR).

Slotting in a smaller-displacement and cheaper-price point model series that is based off a 675cc three-cylinder motor, MV Agusta also showed its F3 supersport and its corresponding Brutale 675 street-naked at EIMCA this year. While compelling pieces, MV Agusta will surely need more models in its arsenal if it wants to achieve its financial goals, and the next MV Agusta is heavily rumored to be a sport-touring/adventure model.

Continue Reading

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock Trim

11/12/2011 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

The Ducati 1199 Panigale is surely going to be the bike of 2012. Not because the flagship Ducati packs a 195hp Superquadro motor into a wet 414 lbs bulk (thought that certainly helps in the sport bike genre), but because the Panigale brings so many revolutionary technical and design aspects to the business of production motorcycles. Electronically adjustable suspension, LED headlights, GPS assisted DDA+ data acquisition, traction control, ABS, engine braking control…the Ducati 1199 Panigle’s feature-set is like reading the wish list of any superbike enthusiast. However what makes the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale truly special is its revolutionary monocoque frame.

The gamble has bit the Italian company in the ass in MotoGP, but on the production-side of the equation, the Ducati 1199 Panigale could very well prove the gamble was worth taking. We here at Asphalt & Rubber have been reserving our judgment on Ducati’s new frame design until we can get the Panigale in our hands and on a track, but when that day finally comes, we really hope what we get to swing a leg over is a Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock trim with Ducati Performance pieces.

If you’re a track day enthusiast with some Italian leanings, you may not want to click past this point — at the very least, take precautions by hiding your wallet. With all the two-wheeld porno after the jump, get ready to be uncomfortable while sitting down. And just remember, “baseball, baseball, baseball.”

Continue Reading

2012 Honda NC700S – The Return of the Standard

11/09/2011 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Honda says it wanted to create a fun and user-friendly motorcycle when it set out to build the 2012 Honda NC700S — a simple, practical, two-cylinder get around town motorcycle. At 47hp and 44 lbs•ft of torque, the Honda NC700S isn’t exactly blowing the doors off with its performance figures, but of course that is not really the purpose of Honda’s new motor, which the NC700S features. Designed to be a compact, rideable, and efficient power supply for Honda’s new commuter entries, the Japanese company hopes that the 670cc motor, with its broad torque curve, will power a new generation and category of machinery.

Fairly unassuming in its outward design, the Honda NC700S shows its lifestyle practicality with features like a helmet-sized storage compartment under the faux-fuel tank, a low-slung seat, and low-cost maintenance structure. Available with Honda’s second-generation dual-clutch transmission (DCT), as well as Honda’s combined anti-locking brakes (C-ABS), the NC700S should be a fairly easy motorcycle for new riders to learn, especially with the DTC’s automatic-shifting feature.

Continue Reading

Ducati 1199 Panigale Says “Checkmate” to the Competition

11/09/2011 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

The folks around Borgo Panigale are feeling very confident about the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale. Dropping 22lbs off the Superbike 1198′s design for a 361 lbs dry wright, while making an extra 20hp over its predecessor for a 195hp peak horsepower figure, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an impressive machine based purely off its spec-sheet. That’s not including a revolutionary monocoque frame, the first full-LED headlight on a motorcycle, the first electronically adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle (the DDA+ package is an optional equipment item for the Panigale).

The Ducati 1199 Panigale also comes standard with traction control, while ABS brakes are an optional item for the flagship superbike. With all that technology packaged into one machine, we can understand why Ducati might be acting pretty pleased with itself right now. We’ll reserve our critique on the two-wheled titan until we get the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale on the street and track, though we have to admit, it’s hard not being impressed with the bike at this point in time…especially when it is such a stunner in person. While we whet our appetite, Ducati’s hubris is after the jump.

Continue Reading

KTM Freeride E – OEMs Enter the Electric Motorcycle Fray

11/08/2011 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The writing has been on the wall for sometime now, as the entire electric motorcycle community has been waiting for a major OEM to debut its own electric motorcycle. Answering that call, KTM unveiled at EICMA today the new 2012 KTM Freeride E. Saying that as the leading off-road motorcycle manufacturer (KTM accounts for about 50% of the worldwide dirt bike market), the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer could not afford to sit idly by while other companies innovated in its space.

Built along the Freeride’s ride anywhere mantra, the KTM Freeride E comes with 2.1kWh of battery power on-board, and is powered by a permanent magnet synchronous motor. With a rated output of 10hp, KTM says the electric motor is good for 30hp peak, with a maximum of 300 Volts going through the system. Helped by its small battery size, the Freeride E weighs only 204 lbs and can be recharged off a 220V socket in 90 minutes. As for range, KTM has an interesting rating system for the electric Freeride, quoting a 20 minute ride time in the hands of a professional, while the KTM Freeride E is rated to last 45 minutes in the hands of an amateur.

Continue Reading

Husqvarna MOAB Concept – A Modern-Day Scrambler

11/08/2011 @ 1:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

We already know that the Husqvarna as a brand needs to start pulling its weight around the BMW Group, which has lead the once off-road brand to expand into on-road segments. We also know that the last time the Swedish brand debuted a concept bike at EICMA, it ended up giving birth to a production model. Debuting the Husqvarna MOAB concept at EICMA today, Husqvarna has done a modern-take on the classic 1960’s & 1970’s scrambler aesthetic, and is undoubtedly testing the waters on the brand increasing its range of street motorcycles.

“The red tank, the spacious seat, the yellow side panel number holders, the simple stripped-down frame…these all form the essence of the new incarnation of the Husqvarna spirit,” said the company in its press release. While it is always interesting to see how a group perceives itself, it is perhaps even more telling to hear a company describe what it is trying to change itself into. While many Husqvarna hard-part liners were put-off by the debut of the Husqvarna Nuda 900, we have a feeling the Husqvarna MOAB concept will strike a chord that is clearly novel, but also true to Husky’s old values.

Continue Reading

2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000 – The Z1000 Adventure-Sport

11/08/2011 @ 11:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Giving the original Kawasaki Versys a bigger sibling, the 2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000 brings liter bike capacity to Kawasaki’s adventure-sport offering. Based around the 1,043cc inline-four motor from the Z1000, Kawasaki has “tuned” the Versys 1000 for smoother power delivery and throttle response, rather than just outright peak power. Accordingly then, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 gets a modest peak horsepower rating of 116hp, while making  75 lbs•ft of torque. While it is disappointing to see such a low peak horsepower figure, it should be pointed out that the Versys makes more power and torque in the lower part of the rev-range than its sport-naked counterpart, which should also suit the intended purpose of the 2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000 a bit better.

Packaged into a 527 lbs curb-side mass, the Versys 1000 certainly isn’t the lightest bike on the block, though it does rate as being more svelte than the newly released 2012 Honda Crosstourer, which will tip the scales at over 600 lbs with the DCT configuration. With 17″ wheels, Kawasaki is making no overtures about the Versys 1000 being a street-going machine, and while the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is ready for touring duty, the Japanese company is touting the bike’s sport appeal with its “adventure-sport” segment nomenclature.

Continue Reading