Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Bultaco Rapitan Sport Prototype – Even More Crazy

05/18/2014 @ 2:10 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Bultaco Rapitan Sport Prototype   Even More Crazy Bultaco Rapitan Sport Electric street bike 01 635x476

The second of Bultaco’s two prototype electric machines, the Bultaco Rapitan Sport picks up where the more mundane, and we use that word relatively, Bultaco Rapitan leaves off. Essentially the same machine at its core, the Rapitan Sport features a more street-tracker aesthetic to mask its electric underpinnings.

This means the same 53hp and 92 lbs•ft of torque powertrain from the Rapitan is featured, which Bultaco developed in-house. It also means that the Rapitan Sport has the same “dual-link” Hossack front-suspension system, belt drive, and 125 mile / 68 mile (city/highway) claimed riding range.

Looking like a very polished design, we like what we see here with the Bultaco Rapitan Sport prototype. We’re not sure how many riders in motorcycling’s conservative ranks will go for its unique pieces of technology and bright yellow street tracker vibe, but we’re a little crazy here at Asphlat & Rubber, and the Rapitan Sport happens to be our particular flavor of two-wheeled insanity.

Like the Rapitan, the Raptian Sport is due out later this year — fingers crossed. No word on price or availability, though we suspect a European debut before any units make it to North America.

Bultaco Rapitan Unveiled – Spanish for “Whoa!”

05/18/2014 @ 1:38 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Bultaco Rapitan Unveiled   Spanish for Whoa! Bultaco Rapitan Electric street bike 02 635x423

As promised, here is the first glimpse of Bultaco’s revival as an electric motorcycle company, and the Spanish brand calls it the Bultaco Rapitan. Really a spin-out project by LGN TECH Design S.L., the new Bultaco is the work product of José Germán Pérez, Raúl Pérez, Juan Manuel Vinós, Gerald Pöllmann, and Jorge Bonilla.

Underneath the Rapitan’s edgy exterior (note the Hossack front-end) resides an electrical powertrain system that the Bultaco gents say they developed themselves. Good for 53hp and 92 lbs•ft of torque, the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t going to blow away the competition with power, but should make for a decent and unique riding experience.

The Spanish firm isn’t saying how much battery is on-board, but claims 125 miles of city riding, and 68 miles of highway riding at 75 mph — which we would guessimate at 10+ kWh, but we all know how accurate these range claims are, right?

Tipping the scales at 416 lbs (189kg), the Bultaco Rapitan isn’t the lightest street-naked on the market, but it certainly isn’t the heaviest either. With 92 lbs•ft of torque, we suspect this should make for a peppy ride, and if the avant garde styling is to your liking (it suits our tastes just fine), then we hope the final production model won’t stray too far.

Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 Debuts at Quail Lodge

05/18/2014 @ 12:58 am, by Bryan Delohery13 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 Debuts at Quail Lodge Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 Quail Lodge Bryan Delohery 04 635x423

As we reported here just a few days ago, Lightning Motorcycles announced its release of the new LS-218 electric superbike, along with plans to preview it at this year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering.

While the photos then were rough, we got a general idea of what the Lightning LS-218 was supposed to look like at its California debut. Taking the wraps off at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, Lightning showed up to the gathering this weekend with what they are calling a nearly finished version of the LS-218.

The first thing that stands out about this bike, as many onlookers noted, was that it looks very much like its petrol-powered cousins, thanks to the gorgeous design by Glynn Kerr. The bright blue metallic paint, contrasted by the brass colored Öhlins dampers and big Brembo brakes, really make for an eye-catching piece of machinery.

What’s more, Lightning claims that this street-legal version of their race bike produces in excess of 200hp and 168lb-ft of torque, but is it enough to live up to the claims?

Bultaco Lives Again – Will Debut Electric Motorcycle

05/16/2014 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Bultaco Lives Again   Will Debut Electric Motorcycle bultaco logo 635x400

Reviving old brands for an electric future is becoming the new vogue, as we have already seen the restart of marquees like Voxan and Saroléa in the two-wheeled space.

Well, add a third name to the list (does that officially make this a trend?), as Bultaco has been restarted once again by investors, who wish to see the Spanish motorcycle brand enter the 21st century.

Missing in action for the past 30 years (not including a failed restart in 1998, which lead to the Sherco brand), it is hard to tell what to make of this news; though the continued emergence of new players in the EV arena only further hints towards where the motorcycle industry is headed.

A Better Look at the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218

05/14/2014 @ 5:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

A Better Look at the Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 lightning motorcycles ls 218 enhance

It was only two days ago that Lightning Motorcycles teased its upcoming LS-218 superbike, complete with a shadowy look of the 200hp+ electric machine.

With the official debut scheduled for this Saturday at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, we don’t have long to wait for the full monty; but with a little Photoshop work, and a little sleuthing, we can have a pretty good idea of what to expect of the final design, or do we?

Raising the exposure and adjusting the levels on the press photo reveals a machine that is about 75% complete. Noticeably missing are the hand controls and instruments, a dash, and it seems some bodywork like the undertail, lower fairing, and windscreen (the photo shows an opaque windscreen, which we have a hard time imagining being a part of the final design).

Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 to Debut at Quail Lodge

05/12/2014 @ 11:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Lightning Motorcycles LS 218 to Debut at Quail Lodge lightning motorcycles ls 218

We shouldn’t have to make too big of a case for your attendance at the The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, so if you’re in Northern California this coming weekend, you owe it to yourself to attend.

But just in case seeing a plethora of unique and beautiful show bikes isn’t your thing (100 years of motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats is on display this year, by the way), we submit to you the upcoming debut of the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 production electric superbike.

A long time in the coming, and based off Lightning’s electric race bike, the LS-218 aims to be the “mot [sic] technologically advanced and highest performing street-legal production motorcycle in teh [sic] world.”

A lofty statement, but then again the LS-218 has some credentials to back it up — and it starts with the electric superbike’s name: LS-218, which is an homage to the machine’s 218 mph top recorded speed at the Bonneville salt flats (a speed reach while setting an official 215 mph land speed record).

We have seen a concept sketch of what the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 should look like, and expect the final version to look very similar; but until Saturday, the above photo is the only glimpse we have of the machine. If the genuine article has the same tastes as the concept sketch, motorcycle fans (even petrol heads) should be in for a treat.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

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

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

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.

Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts Ahead of IOMTT

04/28/2014 @ 6:56 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Saroléa SP7 Electric Superbike Debuts Ahead of IOMTT sarolea sp7 635x423

After a 50 Year Hiatus, the Belgian brand Saroléa is making a bit of comeback, albeit this time in electric form. Already making its intention to race in the 2014 Isle of Man TT, Saroléa has now finally debuted its racing machine, the Saroléa SP7.

An amalgamation of retro-styling and high-technology, the Saroléa SP7 boasts a carbon fiber chassis, a 174hp (130 kW) motor, and a 422 lbs bulk. All of that is wrapped into a café racer styled machine, which with all the modern equipment has a certain juxtaposition that is both visually pleasing, and visually glaring — we will let you decide which sensation dominates your senses more heavily.

Yamaha To Offer Electric Street Bikes by 2016

04/22/2014 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Yamaha To Offer Electric Street Bikes by 2016 Yamaha PES1 electric concept 01 635x475

You may remember the Yamaha PED1 and Yamaha PES1 electric motorcycle concepts, which the tuning fork brand debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Modest, yet slightly futuristic looking, the overall impression we got from readers was that Yamaha was onto something with its PED1 and PES1 bikes, and it seems the Japanese OEM has heard your excitement.

Announcing plans in its 2013 Annual Report to bring the PED1 and PES1 to market by 2016, Yamaha is yet another major OEM to jump on the electric bandwagon and add legitimacy to this budding powertrain segment.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

04/10/2014 @ 6:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

A 2WD Hybrid Electric Motorcycle for the US Military? brd redshift mx electric dirt bike 635x405

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.