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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Friday Summary at Silverstone: Up-And-Down Kind of Day

06/16/2012 @ 2:59 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

“It was an up-and-down day,” Ben Spies said after practice on Friday, and truly, he spoke for a large part of the paddock. It started with the weather: the overnight rain continued for the better part of the morning, leaving the track soaking during FP1. The sun came out at lunchtime, quickly drying out the track, helped by the strong winds buffeting the circuit. The dry track helped, the wind certainly didn’t. “That’s what happens when you build a circuit on an airfield,” Cal Crutchlow commented curtly, after complaining about being blown around by the gusting wind in the afternoon.

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Day of Champions Raises £250,000+ for Riders for Health

06/15/2012 @ 8:53 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The official charity of MotoGP, and an example of motorcycles making the world a better place, Riders for Health is an organization Asphalt & Rubber truly enjoys supporting. For those still not familiar with the work being done by Riders for Health, the charity was founded by Andrea & Barry Coleman, along with some guy named Randy Mamola. Providing motorcycles to health workers in Africa, Riders for Health has helped bring vital and reliable (this point being key) medical care to remote locations in DRC, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Being here in Silverstone for MotoGP’s British GP has meant the unique opportunity to participate in the Day of Champions, the trackside Thursday event that helps raise money for Riders for Health. The event is perhaps most well known for its rider auction, which has forever been immortalized with the antics of then teammates Cal Cructhlow and Colin Edwards.

For an added bonus this year, the British government has graciously agreed to match any funds raised by Rider for Health at the Day of Champions, which means yesterday’s event helped raise in total £254,989 for the organization. British readers, if you want to help support Riders (and get a gold star in our book), you can donate 3 by texting the letters “RFH” to  70303 (your donation will also be doubled by the Crown). US readers, you can go to Riders.org to make a donation (I’m told the text message donation system doesn’t work abroad).

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Photo: Five – Two = Podium

05/13/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Blurred to protect against spoilers, we’ll just leave things simply by saying that World Superbike’s Race 2 at Donington Park is well worth a watching if you haven’t already seen it. Decided right down to the last few turns, race pundits surely will be discussing the race and its outcome over the next week. Unsurprisingly, geography is playing a major a role in how things are being viewed.

Though in a race where a number of questionable passes occurred, it is hard to single out this one event from the plethora of others that occurred during the race, but of course this one had the biggest effect on the race outcome. Click past the jump for the he said, she said, and of course for some slightly sharper photos. Also, be sure to leave your thoughts on the racing incident, was someone, if anyone, at fault?

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WSBK: Five-Way Battle in Race 2 Thrills at Donington Park

05/13/2012 @ 12:53 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WSBK: Five-Way Battle in Race 2 Thrills at Donington Park

With there being heated and close racing at Donington Park for Race 1, World Superbike’s second race for the day was sure to thrill as well, though we doubt anyone could have expected the race we got with Race 2. With the Kawasaki of Tom Sykes sitting on pole, and looking very fast, the Brit was a strong favorite for sure.

Though, no one could discredit the BMW’s of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, especially after their strong results in Race 1. Equally always a factor, Max Biaggi on his Aprilia is always a contender, even with the RSV4’s struggling at the English track. With the checkered flag being up for grabs, the only thing race fans were assured of was great racing. Click past for spoilers and results.

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WSBK: Race 1 Shows New Contenders at Donington Park

05/13/2012 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WSBK: Race 1 Shows New Contenders at Donington Park

With good weather under British skies, World Superbike is making one of its few breaks from the European mainland, and racing at Donington Park this weekend. With a slew of local boys comprising the top spots of the WSBK grid, race fans at Donington had more than a few favorites for Sunday’s races, though pole-setter Tom Sykes seemed to be the favorite per usual, as the Brit looked for his first fair-weather win.

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WSBK: Effenbert Sponsorship on the Rocks Says Liberty Racing – Blames Teams & Riders, Not Infront

05/11/2012 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The hoopla surrounding the Effenbert Liberty Racing team and last weekend’s World Superbike race at Monza continues, though the Czech-based racing squad is present and accounted for at Donington Park this race-weekend. Traveling without its hospitality suite, the largest in the WSBK paddock, Liberty Racing is essentially sans its title sponsor this weekend, and the teams says Effenbert may withdraw its participation in World Superbike after the events at Monza, though the team is committed to completing the 2012 World Superbike Championship.

Saying that its ire in the press was improperly casted towards Infront Motorsport, the team in another statement has clarified that it blames a small number teams and riders, who helped shape the cancellation of Race 1 at Monza, and the shortened distance of Race 2. With Effenbert Liberty Racing rider Sylvain Guintoli on the pole position in Italy, the team is understandably upset about not being able to capitalize on the weekend, especially after securing two podiums at Assen, one of which was a race win. The broken English press release after the jump, while Liberty rider Jakub Smrz currently sits on WSBK’s provisional pole.

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Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

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Photo of the Week: Unbreakable

06/13/2011 @ 10:07 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

The ups and downs of racing are sometimes quite amazing. After breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Colin Edwards had his flights booked to return home and skip the British GP. But he felt well enough after his operation to pin the break that he stayed. Seeing his teammate, Cal Crutchlow, break his collarbone in qualifying, Colin then went on to claim a podium for the beleaguered Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

Boss Herve Poncharal told me when I congratulated him in the paddock that yesterday he’d been ready to commit suicide (not literally of course), and a day later he has two riders on the box, as Bradley Smith snagged second place in the Moto 2 race. Congratulations to all the Tech 3 folks!

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Sunday at Silverstone with Scott Jones

06/13/2011 @ 4:09 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Rain-Soaked British GP Shakes-up Championship

06/12/2011 @ 11:05 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

The nice British weather could only hold-out for so long at Silverstone this race weekend, as MotoGP came to the English track for the British GP. Accordingly, Sunday’s MotoGP race was soaked to the bone with rain, as Casey Stoner took his pole position for the day’s start.

Followed by Marco Simoncelli and Jorge Lorenzo respectively on the front row, the weather showed the potential to make it anyone’s race…that is of course as long as “anyone” doesn’t include Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow, both of whom could not compete because of broken collarbones.

Speaking of broken collarbones, Colin Edwards was set to race, just a week after breaking his at Catalunya, though his teammate was gutted about being unable to race in front of his home crowd after crashing in practice.

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