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.

2015 Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts

04/07/2015 @ 10:16 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Belgian outfit Saroléa is back for the 2015 Isle of Man TT, after debuting the 2015 version of its SP7 electric superbike this past weekend. If you’re saying to yourself that the 2015 model looks very similar to the 2014 model, you are in fact correct, though the bikes are not actually identical.

The 2015 Saroléa SP7 has improved aerodynamics (namely a slimmer body), a revised center of gravity (for better handling), a reduction in weight (more carbon fiber and titanium parts), and proprietary fiber optic network that connect the vehicle control unit to the battery management system.

All of those changes are good for a 22 lbs overall reduction, but the biggest change though for 2015 is the new motor, which was built in-house and is rated at 150hp (down 25hp from last year’s machine).

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Mugen Shinden Yon (神電 四) Electric Superbike Debuts

03/28/2015 @ 5:53 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Racing again in the TT Zero event at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, Team Mugen will defend its results from 2014 on-board the Mugen Shinden Yon.

The fourth iteration of the Japanese electric superbike, riders John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey should have potent weapons to tackle the Mountain Course with, come a few months’ time.

The main contender for the top podium spot, the Mugen Shinden Yon shows some modest changes from the Shinden San. The tailsection is clearly different in shape, as are the body panels on the front of the machine. We suspect, however, that the significant changes are beneath the skin.

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Team Mugen Confirms 2015 IOMTT Entry with Shinden Yon

02/01/2015 @ 12:01 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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A bit of a formality, since rider John McGuinness already spilled the beans in December last year, but Team Mugen has confirmed its entry into the 2015 Isle of Man TT.

Mugen will have a new bike at the contest, named the Shinden Yon, “Yon” being “four” in Japanese, and the bike being the company’s fourth TT racer — like its lap times, Mugen’s engineers are very consitent with their naming conventions.

Little is known about the Shinden Yon, and Mugen is saying only that the machine is “newly developed to improve over last year’s model.

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John McGuinness Confirms 2015 TT Zero with Mugen

12/02/2014 @ 1:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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John McGuinness has confirmed his place in the 2015 TT Zero race during next year’s Isle of Man TT, and as expected he will be racing with Team Mugen, riding the electric Shinden motorcycle.

McGuinness will once again be partnered with Bruce Anstey, and the 21-time race winner expects the Japanese firm to have an all-new bike for their efforts next year.

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What A 117.366 MPH Electric Superbike Lap Looks Like

06/06/2014 @ 8:12 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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Team Mugen was in force at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, putting in a 1-2 finish at the TT Zero event. To add to that double podium, John McGuinness took his Mugen Shinden San to a new Snaefell Mountain Course record for an electric motorcycle, dropping a 117.366 mph lap during the race…from a standing start.

Faster than both the Lightweight TT bikes and Subaru exhibition car that ran later that Wednesday, the public perception that electrics are slow certainly has to be challenged. The proof of that concept is in the pudding, and we have the entire record-breaking lap to prove it.

Take the next 20 minutes to watch McPint TIE-Fighter his way around the 37.773 mile road course (don’t pretend like you were going to do work on this fine summer day). It’s pretty astounding not only the outright speeds involved, but the rate of progression electrics have made in six year’s time.

As batteries become more power-dense, and thus the weight of these machines drop, the petrol-powered supersbikes will have some serious competition on their hands.

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IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

06/05/2014 @ 12:33 am, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

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Before heading up to the Bungalow for today’s races, the weather looked fairly promising with only cloud cover, and no ominous darker clouds threatening rain.

Once I’d arrived it was a different story, with the low clouds covering the tram stop at the top of Snaefell – the island’s highest peak at over 2,000ft – threatening to roll down towards the circuit.

Thankfully it held off long enough to complete the TT Zero and second Supersport races, but had enveloped the surrounding area before the second sidecar race and some practice sessions could run.

The Bungalow is one of the highest points on the course, as the riders exit the Verandah and continue on their way towards Kate’s Cottage. If you watched last year’s TT highlights you’ll recognise it as the point where Michael Dunlop’s CBR600RR made a damn good attempt to throw him off, leaving rubber on the road and forcing him to take a much wider line through the corner than usual.

Usually the backdrop to any image at the Bungalow is a lush, green hillside, but today it was mainly the low, rolling clouds. This makes the camera try to expose the whiteness of the clouds, leaving the bikes underexposed if you don’t work around it.

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IOMTT: SES TT Zero Race Results

06/04/2014 @ 3:52 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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An event we’ve been eagerly waiting for, the 2014 SES TT Zero electric race was billed as a battle for the #1 spot between the Mugen riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey, and battle between everyone else for the third and final podium position. And that is exactly what the 2014 Isle of Man TT fans got.

First to leave Glencrutchery Road, and the first to return, John McGuinness took his 21st IOMTT race win while on the Mugen Shinden San. The first time that the Mugen team has won the electric solo race at the IOMTT, McGuinness’s lap also officially broke the outright record for an electric motorcycle at the Isle of Man TT, with a 117.366 mph lap.

To put that lap time in perspective, rally driver Mark Higgins managed only a 116.470 mph lap during the Subaru exhibition lap, which immediately followed the TT Zero race; that time also bests Ryan Farquhar’s best Lightweight TT flying lap of 116.840 mph from practice.

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Up-Close with the 2014 Mugen Shinden San (神電 参)

06/04/2014 @ 1:40 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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The TT Zero event for the 2014 Isle of Man TT is about to kick-off in about an hour, so we thought we’d show the electric superbike that everyone in the paddock is talking about, the Mugen Shinden San. The third iteration of the machine from Mugen, this year the Japanese tuning brand has two riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

With Bruce Anstey on fire this TT fortnight, and McGuinness off his pace in the previous sessions with a wrist injury (and sitting out today’s Supersport TT race), it seems like anything can happen before the starter’s flag drops.

Assuming the two-rider format remains, Mugen has said to Asphalt & Rubber that both riders will likely run the same electronic maps during the race, which should rest the race’s results squarely on the riders. In order to do this, Mugen must feel confident with its energy management and overall racing package.

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IOMTT: Anstey Laps 112 MPH on the Mugen Shinden San

06/02/2014 @ 4:41 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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When it comes to single-lap speed, Bruce Anstey is the man at the Isle of Man this year. Setting the outright fastest lap ever around the Snaefell Mountain Course, on the last lap of the Dainese Superbike TT no less, Anstey has another record to be proud of at the 2014 Isle of Man TT: the fastest TT lap ever on an electric motorcycle, at 112.355 mph unofficial.

For those not keeping up with the TT Zero news, Bruce Anstey is playing teammate to John McGuinness on Team Mugen. The Japanese tuning brand has brought its third-generation electric superbike to the TT, appropriately calling the 500+ lbs behemoth the Mugen Shinden San (san meaning “three” in Japanese).

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Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

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