Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

Recall: 2014 Zero Motorcycles S, SR, DS, & FX

04/07/2014 @ 4:09 pm, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

Recall: 2014 Zero Motorcycles S, SR, DS, & FX 2014 zero sr 635x453

As you may remember from our previous coverage, things are not looking so good for Zero Motorcycles with several recalls in the past year, including  faulty brake caliper mounting bolts that was issued in August, and a faulty firmware recall that caused certain models to shut down while running.

Now, after an incident with an expert rider in Australia in late February, Zero has discovered that when certain motors are pushed to their limits, the motors rotor may contact the stator, causing the engine to lock up thereby causing the rear wheel to lock up.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

04/03/2014 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings Mugen Shinden Ni no fairings 05 635x420

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni.

You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mission Motors Providing Mugen with Electric Powertrain

04/02/2014 @ 6:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Mission Motors Providing Mugen with Electric Powertrain Mission Motors Mission R Infineon 23 635x425

One of the more interesting details to come from the Mugen Shinden San electric superbike reveal is that a familiar name is helping power the Japanese motorcycle: Mission Motors.

One of the inaugural racing teams at the first Isle of Man TT electric race, Mission Motors has since focused its business model on providing OEMs with HEV/EV powertrains — you may remember its motorcycle project was spun into a new company, Mission Motorcycles.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

04/02/2014 @ 5:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed mugen shiden san 1 635x423

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race.

With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap).

An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

BRD Working on an Affordable Electric Scooter?

02/19/2014 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BRD Working on an Affordable Electric Scooter? brd redshift sm factory 635x425

I was just in the BRD Motorcycles office the other day, and managed to get a glimpse of a near-production version of the startup’s RedShift supermoto/motocross platform. A more refined version of the prototype I rode in December 2011, though fundamentally and visually a very similar machine, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are eagerly awaiting the release of these lites-class bikes.

Unfortunately for my brief tour, the BRD team took away my phone, and gave me only vague responses to my questions about the RedShift in exchange. I can’t fault them on either account — the San Franciscan company doesn’t mess about with the “spy photo” nonsense, and would rather comment on realities, rather than push marketing hype.

CEO Marc Fenigstein did say that the company would have some announcements very soon though, which I would presume to be about additional company funding, which in turn leads to more concrete delivery dates of production bikes. Of course, time will tell on that.

However, one of those announcements might have been leaked out in one of the company’s job postings though: a cheap, powerful, affordable electric scooter for 2015.

Electrics to Compete Against Gas Bikes at the Southern 100

02/09/2014 @ 7:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Electrics to Compete Against Gas Bikes at the Southern 100  brammo empulse race bike 635x476

The ACU (governing body of motorcycle races in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man) along with the Southern 100 Club (the organization behind the Southern 100 road race on the Isle of Man) have seen it fit to allow electric motorcycles to compete alongside petrol-powered machines at this year’s Southern 100 road race. Booyah!

Accordingly, Darvill Racing will be the first team to enter an electric bike alongside the current crop of internal combustion machines, and will campaign Brammo’s eSuperStock and TTXP2 machine at the other Manx road race.

IOMTT: Mugen Confirms Two-Rider Team for TT Zero

02/07/2014 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

IOMTT: Mugen Confirms Two Rider Team for TT Zero mugen shinden tt zero 21 635x423

Team Mugen is back for the 2014 Isle of Man TT, as the Japanese tuning house (often thought to be a front for Honda) has confirmed its entry into this year’s SES TT Zero electric motorcycle race.

Fielding two entries this year, Mugen has retained the services of John McGuinness, and the team has also added Bruce Anstey into the mix.

Mugen has also announced an a new electric race bike for the Isle of Man TT, which is named the Mugen Shinden San, “san” meaning “three” in Japanese — a pretty obvious naming scheme considering its predecessor was called Shinden Ni, or Shinden 2.

There are no details on the Shinden San at this point, beyond the fact that Mugen says the race bike will have more power and speed. A formidable entry last year, McGuinness finished second in last year’s TT Zero race, with a 109+ mph lap under his belt. This year, you can count on the 110 mph mark being a target for both McPint and Anstey.

Energica Ego Electric Superbike Now Coming in 2015

02/04/2014 @ 1:40 pm, by Bryan Delohery6 COMMENTS

Energica Ego Electric Superbike Now Coming in 2015 Energica Ego electric superbike 04 635x423

With electric motorcycles seemingly popping up everywhere, it comes as a surprise to no one that the Italians would eventually want a piece of this pie.

Originally the Energica Ego was scheduled to be released in 2014 but, as we have seen with many electric motorcycle companies that decide to venture into uncharted territory, innovation comes at a cost.

According to the Energica, the Ego produces nearly 135 hp and 143 lb-ft of torque with a top speed of 149 mph. Range is said to be 93 miles on a single-charge, and the starting price will be $25,000. This puts the Energica Ego out ahead of the competition but, numbers on paper are just that, numbers on paper.

Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles – A Cautionary Tale

01/31/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles   A Cautionary Tale terra motors kiwami 635x423

It must be hard to be a legitimate motorcycle manufacturer, because the market seems to be flooded with ripoff artists in every corner. Every year at the EICMA show, we see the Italy’s Guardia di Finanza haul out scooters and motorcycles that the trade regulator deems are too close to those of Italian brands.

Now granted, we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye (if you were an Italian OEM, wouldn’t you want to keep out the budget-priced scooters from your market?), and some of these confiscated designs truly don’t seem infringing to my eye, but I digress.

With the case of the Terra Motors Kiwami though, what it seems we have here is that the Japanese brand has repurposed a Zero S electric street bike from California’s Zero Motorcycles for its own purposes.

We had a couple people in the industry email us about this gem of a story, wondering if Zero had licensed its design, or even sold an excess of inventory. to the Japanese company,  which plans on selling the Kiwami in the Indian market. However, before we could do some digging though, our good colleague Domenick Yoney at AutoBlog Green got the scoop on what is up.

Zero Motorcycles Recalls Bikes that “Quit While Running”

01/13/2014 @ 1:38 pm, by Bryan DeloheryComments Off

Zero Motorcycles Recalls Bikes that Quit While Running Zero S up close 04 635x425

On the heels of its August 2013 recall for faulty brake caliper mounting bolts, Zero has announced yet another recall for its electric motorcycles, this time one involving  several 2012-2013 models.

In December of last year, Zero Motorcycles released a statement announcing that they intended to recall 667 motorcycles due to faulty firmware that may cause the bike to lose power while running, potentially resulting in a crash.

According to Zero, “the subject motorcycles have a controller firmware that may react to infrequently encountered signal faults.” In layman’s terms, the signal to the motor controller may drift over the course of extended use of the bike, causing the motor to shut down sporadically.