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.

India’s Royal Enfield Acquires the UK’s Harris Performance

05/13/2015 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Indian motorcycle brands getting involved with Western companies for R&D isn’t anything new, in fact the entire Erik Buell Racing story seems to center around that very issue.

So, it shouldn’t shock anyone to hear that the iconic Royal Enfield motorcycle brand has acquired famed British performance house Harris Performance.

“Royal Enfield is working on its new generation of products and platforms; to have the Harris Performance team dedicatedly working with us will clearly enhance our engineering and product design capabilities,” said Siddhartha Lal, CEO Royal Enfield.

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Trackside Tuesday: Do Motorcycles Dream of Electric Sheep?

06/18/2013 @ 1:09 pm, by Richard Mushet14 COMMENTS

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Now the dust has settled on another TT, a look back over the numerous pages of lap times and race results can only tell us so much. With so many incredible stories to be told it is difficult to choose one for this article.

From the blatantly obvious, such as; Dunlop’s incredible four wins, McGuinness’ new outright lap record or Ian Lougher rounding out his career on the Mountain course, which spanned four decades, tallying nine wins plus an additional nineteen podiums.

To the equally awe-inspiring, like; David Johnson’s impressive return to the island on privateer machinery, Dave Madsen-Mygdal completing his 100th TT race, and the first ever Chinese competitor at the TT, the likeable Cheung Wai-On.

Above all these, one team’s story caught my eye – the Buckeye Current team from the Ohio State University’s College of Engineering, whose Honda CBR1000RR-based electric motorcycle was tackling the Mountain course.

Consisting of a number of students from various science and engineering programs, the team’s RW-2 bike was the sole American entry from an educational institute and was pitting itself against three other teams from similar institutes and six non-collegiate teams from across the globe.

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CAD Drawings of the Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/11/2012 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Overall, our impressions of the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 was that the new baby Fighter from Ducati, is a well-improved upon successor to the original Ducati Streetfighter 1098. Helping differentiate the SF848 from the higher-spec, though otherwise identical, Streetfighter 1098 S, the Streetfighter 848 takes the geometry from the Ducati Superbike 848, which means it gets a much-better handling 24.5° rakes. Ducati has also brought over the Testastretta 11° engine, which made its first debut on the Ducati Multistrada 1200, and then found its way onto the Ducati Diavel.

Smoother and easier to operate, the new Streetfighter’s 849cc motor may be down on power compared to its Superbike counterpart (132 hp at its peak, compared to the Superbike 848 EVO’s 140hp), but the SF848 has a much flatter torque curve and a power band that extends into a more useable range for urban and aggressive street riding. When compared to its predecessor, just about the only thing we don’t like about the Ducati Streetfighter 848 is the foot clearance issue with the shotgun exhaust, which limits the movement of a rider’s right foot on the Streetfighter’s peg.

Releasing these CAD drawings at the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 US press launch, maybe some eagle-eyed industrial designers can come up with a solution for this reporter’s kneecap. CAD renders after the jump.

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The Mission R with Its Clothes Off

01/18/2011 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

The Mission R, the latest creation to come from San Francisco-based Mission Motors, looks like any typical gasoline-powered sportbike (well, any really good looking gasoline-powered sportbike), and that’s sort of the point behind the machine: an electric motorcycle that can excite petrol-heads and electron nerds alike. Although the Mission R was made to draw mainstream appeal, today we see further proof that any resemblance to modern ICE motorcycles was made to be only skin deep.

Beneath the carbon-laid fairings of the Mission R, we see a hint of the bike’s unique chrome-moly trellis frame that mates to a previously hidden headstock/front sub-frame unit that was made by Speedymoto and designed by James Parker (of GSX-RADD fame). With the Mission R’s mass centralized around the 141hp 3-phace AC induction motor, Parker also had to contend with Mission’s carbon enclosed two-tiered battery pack that comprises the bulk of the race bike’s weight.

Read after the jump as Parker walks us through his process and thoughts on designing the Mission R, and be sure to check out the photo galleries for an up-close look.

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Hands on with the MotoCzysz Frame

03/18/2010 @ 3:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ending our two-part series that looked at the the MotoCzysz E1pc, we ask ourselves: why do motorcycles look the way they do? Probably the best answer to this question is that motorcycles today represent an amalgamation of 100 years of design evolution centered around the internal combustion engine. When we look at motorcycle racing, we see the design in its purest embodiment of function over form. While surely some semblance of aesthetics remains, the ultimate goal is to shave the next tenth of a second off a lap time. Each minor improvement adds up, and these aggregated can translate into substantial improvements when racing the clock and the competition.

So it surprises us when we look at electric motorcycle racing and see so many teams approaching their designs with the same ideas and concepts that were born out of this century of internal combustion engine (ICE) racing. While the two offshoots of the same branch carry over with them many similarities, the fundamentals of attaching wheels, suspension, and seat to a running motor has changed, and with that change surely there would be a large movement to rethink the way we build motorcycle frames. The fact of the matter however is that many electric motorcycle designers choose to pursue cramming an electric motor and batteries into a frame, and ultimately into and architecture, that was refined for a gasoline pumping motor and doesn’t fully integrate the chassis’s from with its function.

In an industry that rethinks motorcycles from the ground up, the biggest paradigm shift has been left out by all but a few teams and manufacturers. Looking for the next generation in motorcycle chassis design, Asphalt & Rubber recently got to sit down with Michael Czysz to get an up-close look at the 2009 MotoCzysz E1pc electric motorcycle, and also got a sneak peak at the 2010 frame and chassis. As one of the few entities to rethink how a motorcycle should be design and produced, Czysz’s insights into his design give a glimpse as to what the next 100 years of motorcycle evolution will look like.

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Kinekt Design Gear Ring – Bling for Motorcyclists

03/06/2010 @ 9:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

When it comes to rings, women get all the bling, leaving men to choose bands that have a de minimus amount of creativity to them. Well that’s all about to change as Kinekt has come up with a ring that should warm the hearts of engineers and gear-heads alike. The Kinekt Design Gear Ring is both functional, in that it turns on itself…not that it actually serves any purpose other than as a constant reminder of your love and devotion. Check the video of it in action after the jump.

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