Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Yamaha MT-125 – Europe Gets Another MT

05/07/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Yamaha MT 125   Europe Gets Another MT  Yamaha MT 125 03 635x476

Need a small-displacement naked bike for your urban commute? Yamaha has something for you then, as the tuning fork brand has announced the Yamaha MT-125 for the European market today. Based off the Yamaha YZF-R125 platform, the MT-125 is essentially the R125 stripped of its fairings.

Featuring the same steel delta box frame, and 124.7cc single-cylinder thumper as the Yamaha R125, the big changes to make the MT-125 are the obvious ones, namely the “MT” styling that we have seen on the Yamaha MT-09 (that’s the Yamaha FZ-09 to us Americans) and the Yamaha MT-07.

European Motorcycle Sales Show Signs of Life

04/03/2014 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

European Motorcycle Sales Show Signs of Life europe flag map lg studio 635x516

Three points makes a trend, so refrain from the high-fives and ching-ching’s, but European bike sales are finally showing signs of life after seeing steady growth in January and February, compared to last year.

With motorcycle sales up 14.8%, and combined motorcycle and moped sales up 8.6%, two-wheelers in Europe seem to be headed in the right direction.

Unified Toll System in the Works for the Europe Union

01/23/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Bryan Delohery10 COMMENTS

Unified Toll System in the Works for the Europe Union tollbooth kiosk vintage

Since the inception of the European Union in 1993, politicians in the EU have been spouting off about the advantages of a “unified Europe,” claiming that it would bring all of its member states under one economic system with one currency, allowing them to act cooperatively for the “greater good.”

Of the many advantages touted to be included in the EU was the ability to travel freely between member states with no passports, unfortunately one crucial system that was not unified was the toll system.

Because the member states of the EU have been left to implement their own system to collect toll fares, this has left traveling between countries difficult and often expensive, which is why EU is planning to implement the European Electronic Toll Service.

Erik Buell Racing Establishes European Operations

01/14/2014 @ 9:35 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Establishes European Operations 2014 Erik Buell Racing 1190RX 02

Erik Buell Racing has its sights set on the other side of the Atlantic. To expand brand awareness and distribution on the continent, they have opened up an office in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The move is also aimed at promoting their participation in the 2014 FIM World Superbike Championship with riders, Geoff May and Aaron Yates.

With Hero MotoCorp holding a near 50% stake in EBR, it also seems like a move for Hero to expand its marketing and distribution of it’s own products to the European market.

With Hero intending to bring its bikes to the North American market in 2014, an expansion in the European market, if successful, could solidify its brand recognition in the Western world, especially amongst younger riders or commuters looking for a cheaper pair of wheels to get around.

2014 Kawasaki J300 — A Maxi-Scooter from Team Green

11/06/2013 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2014 Kawasaki J300    A Maxi Scooter from Team Green 2014 Kawasaki J300 03 635x476

Scooters aren’t really our thing here at Asphalt & Rubber — I mean sure they’re fun to ride, just as long as no one sees you on one, right? That’s the joke at least, but the reality is that the more people we gett on two-wheels in America, the better; and today’s maxi-scooters are essentially just really comfortable motorbikes anyways.

That’s what makes the 2014 Kawasaki J300 such a big announcement at the 2013 EICMA show, as Kawasaki is finally offering a scooter built for the European market, and is now offering its first maxi-scooter.

Yamaha Motorcycle Sales Down 12.8% for 2012

02/25/2013 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Yamaha Motorcycle Sales Down 12.8% for 2012 2008 yamaha yzf r1 cutaway 635x406

While for the most part 2012 was a growth year for the motorcycle industry, not all of the OEMs faired the storm equally. Posting a 5.4% sales loss in 2012 compared to 2011, Yamaha also saw a massive decrease in net profits last year.

Generating ¥1,276 billion 2011, Yamaha saw a 5.4% decrease in revenues, with sales totaling ¥1,207 billion in 2012. While units sales and sales revenue were down only a modest amount, net income was down a massive 72.2%, ¥7.5 billion (2012) vs. ¥27 billion (2011).

Harley-Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012

01/30/2013 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012 Harley Davidson 635x423

Helped by a strong fourth quarter, Harley-Davidson is reporting signs of growth for 2012, with the company’s global sales again up 6.2% over the figures from last year. With sales up 6.6% in the United States, and 5.6% abroad, Harley-Davidson sold 249,849 motorcycles in 2012, and those sales figures translated onto the balance sheet into a 6% growth in revenue ($4.9 billion) and a 4% increase in net income ($623 million).

“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees, dealers and suppliers, Harley-Davidson achieved its growth and restructuring goals in 2012,” said CEO Keith Wandell. “The ambitious restructuring of our manufacturing operations, aimed at delivering better responsiveness for customers and greater operating efficiency, is now largely behind us.”

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012

01/28/2013 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012 honda logo 635x400

Honda Motor Co. has reported its 2012 sales figures, with the Japanese behemoth showing a 5% sales drop for 2012, when compared to 2011. Selling 15.6 million units last year, Honda made progress in its home country Japan (+1%), as well as in North America (+25%) and Europe (+22%).

However in Honda’s most volume-heavy markets, the company suffered modest loses: South America (-14%), Asia (-5%), and China (-1%). With three out of four Honda motorcycles being sold in Asia, the region’s 5% dip essentially assured the Japanese company’s sales loss for the year.

Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Uh Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales Year Ever in 2012 ktm moto3 635x423

If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

MV Agusta Motorcycles Get More Expensive for 2013, Again

12/31/2012 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MV Agusta Motorcycles Get More Expensive for 2013, Again MV Agusta Brutale 800 04 635x425

It hasn’t even been two months since MV Agusta debuted it line-up of motorcycles for the 2013 model year, but the Italian company is already revising its European pricing ahead of the 2013 bikes’ debut in the coming spring. With most models getting a €200 to €300 boost in MSRP, the only MV’s unaffected by this strange price increase are the base model MV Agusta Brutale 1090 and base model MV Agusta F4.

The three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 and MV Agusta Brutale 675 machines get a €200 kick across the board, while the four-cylinder machines get the €300 price increase. No word as to why MV Agusta is increasing the price (though we can guess that the Varese brand is looking for some more euros on its bottom line).

The price change is an especially strange move after releasing its 2013 line so recently, and shows MV Agusta second-guessing itself on one of the company’s more important decisions. It is not clear at this time how this news will affect pricing in North America, if at all (we suggest contacting your dealer). A full breakdown of the price changes is after the jump.