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.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 & Street 750 – The First Truly “New” Motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 13 Years

11/04/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Street 500 & Street 750   The First Truly New Motorcycles from Harley Davidson in 13 Years harley davidson street 500 750

News of “smaller-displacement” Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been percolating for quite some time now, especially after the Bar & Shield brand began taking emerging markets more seriously.

With countries like India viewing 500cc bikes as “big” and Harley-Davidson’s smallest offering tipping the scales at 883cc, something had to give in the company’s strategy, and it looks like it just did.

Announcing two new bikes, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Harley-Davidson Street 750, the Milwaukee brand is finally ready to go abroad, and its launching its intent to do so this week in Milan, at the EICMA show.

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

09/03/2013 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Confirms 500cc Model   Electrics Too? harley davidson american legend 635x423

Two years ago I lamented on the fact that Harley-Davidson didn’t have a model under 800cc, which among other things, left the company at odds with its efforts to push into the emerging Indian motorcycle market.

Six-months after I wrote that piece, there seemed to be some hope for the Bar & Shield brand, as rumors began to circulate about a 500cc class motorcycle that was being designed with emerging countries in mind. It would seem now, those rumors were true.

Confirming that Harley-Davidson would soon debut a 500cc class motorcycle for the Indian market, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich revealed last weekend that the Milwaukee-based company had a 500cc model in an advanced stage of development.

Hinting strongly that the machine would be built in India, and be aimed specifically at that market, Levatich also hedged his bets on the possibility of the model arriving on US soil.

WSBK: Indian Round Cancelled for 2013

08/14/2013 @ 4:19 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

WSBK: Indian Round Cancelled for 2013 Buddh International Circuit track map 635x492

Confirming rumors going around the World Superbike paddock, the FIM has confirmed that WSBK’s race in India has been cancelled. Citing “operational challenges” as the cause for the cancellation, Jaypee Sports International and Dorna had no choice but to cancel that races to be held on November 17th, though the race will likely remain on the 2015 calendar.

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh

07/08/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh ducati scrambler 635x405

While I was lounging at the pool this holiday weekend, getting my bronze on, the A&R Bothan Spy network was hard at work dumpster diving, hacking emails, and subscribing to the NSA’s live PRISM feed.

The fruits of that labor was the alarming realization of how many kitten videos the motorcycle industry collectively watches in a single day, and the fact that Ducati is working on scrambler-style motorcycle.

The project itself dates way back when Pierre Terblanche was still toiling away in Bologna, dodging equal portions of labor strikes and carbonara, and at the time was based around the now defunct Ducati Sport Classic.

Shelved, and thought never to see the light of day, we can only imagine this whole Hipstacyclist™ movement has helped Ducati rethink its position regarding a scrambler.

The Most Interesting Slide from Yamaha’s Three-Year Plan

12/18/2012 @ 10:52 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The Most Interesting Slide from Yamahas Three Year Plan Yamaha Market Growth 635x440

Announcing today its “New Medium-term Management Plan” that will cover the next three years of business operations, Yamaha Motor Co.’s strategy is fairly simple, yet also very ambitious. While fighting against the global currency exchange rate with the yen, the Japanese company is hoping to release over 250 new units over its various product segments.

While this goal encompasses all of Yamaha Motors’ product lines, the most obvious additions for the motorcycle division will be Yamaha’s recently announced three-cylinder motorcycles, as well as the now confirmed Yamaha YZF-R250, a 250cc sport bike that will debut in the Indian market.

Unless you have an MBA, Yamaha’s three-year business strategy is a pretty dull read (it might still be a snoozer, even if you do have an MBA), but one Powerpoint slide struck me as interesting (you can see the full presentation here).

Ducati Forms a Brazilian Subsidiary

10/22/2012 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Ducati Forms a Brazilian Subsidiary Ducati Brazil 635x457

Ducati has announced today that is has created a wholly-owned subsidiary for the Brazilian market, following the news that its current importer, the Izzo Group, has shutdown its business due to current economic situation. Part of a larger issue in Brazil with the Izzo Group, which was the country’s largest motorcycle importer, Ducati‘s move ensures the Italian brand’s ability to sell in the growing South American economy.

Headquartered in São Paulo, Ducati Brazil will be the Bologna brand’s base in Brazil, which has extremely high tariffs on foreign goods. Importing complete knock-down (CKD) kits to Ducati Brazil, Ducati will have a minimal manufacturing presence in the South American country, and will be essentially assembling its motorcycles within Brazilian borders in order to side-step loopholes in the Brazil import regulations.

Triumph’s Proposed Plant in India Could Increase Production 10x – New Small-Displacement Bike Coming

07/17/2012 @ 8:44 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Triumphs Proposed Plant in India Could Increase Production 10x   New Small Displacement Bike Coming 2012 triumph street triple 635x422

Like many other brands ahead of it, Triumph is getting ready to enter the Indian market in a serious way. Eyeing a piece of property in Narasapur in the Karnataka region of India, Triumph’s initial plan is to build a facility capable of producing 250,000 units per year, with an expansion plan that could double that number. Currently producing 50,000 units a year in its British and Thai facilities, Triumph’s move into India could increase the company’s production ten-fold per annum.

Said to be bringing mostly its full-size premium offerings to the Indian market, Triumph is also rumored to be working on a small-displacement single-cylinder motorcycle that could be developed with the Indian and Southeast Asian markets specifically in mind. With India’s premium motorcycle market still quite small, though growing, the initial quarter-million unit estimates from the British brand are sure to be heavily relying on this new small-displacement model, rumored to be called the Triumph Cub.

India’s TVS is in Talks with BMW Motorrad

07/09/2012 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Indias TVS is in Talks with BMW Motorrad tvs apache green 635x740

The big news out of India today is that the country’s fourth-largest motorcycle manufacturer, TVS,  is in talks with Germany’s leading two-wheeled maker, BMW Motorrad. While there are few details on what is occurring between the two companies, it is being reported by the Wall Street Journal that TVS is hoping to get some technical know-how from BMW in making larger-displacement motorcycles.

Likely to end in some sort of strategic partnership, BMW is surely eyeing TVS’s distribution network in exchange for its 500cc+ help, as all the major OEMs are currently jockeying for position in the growing Indian market. Other rumors around the deal suggest that TVS could help BMW create smaller-displacement machines, specifically designed for India, which would presumably also be available in other emerging markets like South America and Southeast Asia.

Yamaha Gets Serious About India with $500 Motorcycle

06/27/2012 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Yamaha Gets Serious About India with $500 Motorcycle india yamaha ybr 110 635x396

I wax on about the importance of the Indian market with far too much regularity to regurgitate it yet another time, but its suffices to say that like Ron Burgundy, India is a pretty big deal. With two of the three largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world coming from India, and the country continuing to account for a massive amount of the world’s two-wheeler consumption (India is the second largest consumer of motorcycles in the world, by volume), it should come with little surprise then that Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha wants a bigger piece of the pie.

Yamaha currently accounts for roughly 500,000 of the 10+ million units sold per year in India (read: less than 5% of the total Indian motorcycle market), and the Japanese company is already offering several cheap motorcycle options in India. However, hoping to increase that figure to 600,000 next year, and to continue future growth in the market down the line, the tuning-fork brand has let it slip that a $500 motorcycle is in the works. Game on Honda.

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014

06/05/2012 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014 Hero MotoCorp retro 635x381

The second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Hero MotoCorp, says that by 2014 it will be free of its entanglement with the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Honda. Creating a joint-venture in the Indian market, Hero and Honda went their separate ways in December of 2010, after a 26-year relationship.

Despite Honda wanting to go it alone in India, the renamed Hero MotoCorp retained some licensing rights to use Honda technology until 2014, so it makes sense that the company would announce its impending autonomy at this juncture.