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.

Why the USA Might Tax European Motorcycles Over Beef

01/17/2017 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler57 COMMENTS

What do chickens have to do with potatoes? For that matter, what do chickens have to do with steel? And what do both of those things have to do with tires?

The answer isn’t as obvious as you may think, and this week everyone in the motorcycle industry is asking themselves what European motorcycles have to do with beef exports.

The answer to all these questions is the same though, and it involves the rather unsophisticated motorcycle industry being dragged into the rather complex world of international trade negotiation. Let me explain.

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BMW Makes It Six Record Sales Years in a Row

01/16/2017 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

 

2016 was another record sales year for BMW Motorrad, the sixth in a row for the German motorcycle maker. BMW Motorrad sold 145,032 units to customers in 2016, a 5.9% gain over 2015’s sales figure.

Because of this result, BMW says it is well on its way to its goal of selling 200,000 units in the 2020 model year. As lofty (and arbitrary) as that goal is, what is more impressive is the fact that BMW Motorrad has been able to increase its sales volume by nearly 50% since 2010 (98,047 units).

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No, The End Is Not Nigh for Motorsport in Europe

12/27/2016 @ 11:06 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Reading motorsports websites all over Europe recently, you would think it was Doomsday for motorcycle racing, and all forms of motorized sports.

Even in as august a publication as The Times (of London, that is), the headlines warned of impending disaster:. “EU insurance rule ‘will destroy British motor sport’“. Is the end nigh for motorsport in Britain?

The short answer is “No, but it’s complicated”. So where did these warnings that the sky is falling come from?

On Wednesday, the MCIA (the Motorcycle Industry Association, the body representing the British bike industry), the ACU, and the AMCA (both representing motorcycle racing, on road and off road) issued a joint press release, warning that motorsport in the UK could come to an end due to a ruling by the European Court in Luxembourg.

The ruling stems from a judgment in the case of Vnuk v. Triglav, case C-162/13 before the European Court of Justice, and known as the Vnuk judgment. The case involved a Slovenian farm worker, Damijan Vnuk, who was injured when he was knocked off a ladder by a tractor reversing with a trailer.

Vnuk was working on a farm at the time, and sued for compensation from the motor vehicle insurance policy of the tractor. The lower Slovenian courts rejected his claims, but the Slovenian Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.

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The Honda CB1100 TR Concept Gives a Nod Towards Europe’s Flat Track Racing Fascination

11/08/2016 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

CB1100TR Concept

The American Flat Track aesthetic is catching hold over in Europe. We can see evidence of such by the popularity of flat track racing for Europe’s top MotoGP athletes, the rise of the Spanish Superprestigio event in Barcelona, and with the concepts we are seeing come from the European divisions of motorcycle OEMs.

Add the Honda CB1100 TR concept to that pile of evidence, as it is one of two motorcycle concepts that Honda Motor Europe is debuting at the 2016 EICMA show (the other being the very tasty Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept).

Built off the Honda CB1100 street bike, the Honda CB1100 TR concept takes a motorcycle we otherwise would not be terribly interested in riding, and gives it a healthy dosage of sex appeal.

Go-fast parts come from Öhlins and Termignoni, with the #58 numberplate honoring the memory of Marco Simoncelli, who passed away five years ago, and whose passing is still deeply felt in Italy.

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Yamaha T7 Concept Hints at a 700cc Ténéré for 2018

11/07/2016 @ 2:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

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BSA Brand Purchased by Mahindra for $4.1 Million

10/25/2016 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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News from across the pond indicates that the historic BSA motorcycle brand has been acquired by Indian motorcycle manufacturer Mahindra.

According to the newswires, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (through a subsidiary named Classic Legends Private Limited) acquired 100% of BSA Company Limited for the tidy price of £3.4 million, or $4.1 million (at the time of this writing).

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2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP – Putting the Europeans on Notice

10/04/2016 @ 10:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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What you’re looking at is the 2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP, a new edition of Iwata’s crossplane-power streetfighter. Despite being just a few bolted-on parts, the Yamaha MT-10 SP is one of the more interesting machines to debut in INTERMOT today.

This is because it pits the Yamaha MT-10 directly against the streetfighter offerings from the European brands – something that was already occurring with the MT-10/FZ-10, even if it was unintended.

The Yamaha MT-10 SP though gives the Japanese a more proper machine to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Super Duke R, Tuono V4 1100, and other models.

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The Yamaha MT-09 Gets a Facelift & More for 2017

10/04/2016 @ 8:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Yamaha’s MT line runs with the tagline “The Dark Side of Japan” and promises edgy and affordable street bikes for urban riders.

Someone in Iwata, Japan must have thought that the current Yamaha MT-09 wasn’t quite edgy enough though, which is the only way we can explain the 2017 Yamaha MT-09, which debuted today at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany.

Now with a “twin-eyed” LED headlight design, the Yamaha MT-09 feels a little bit more at home when parked next to the Yamaha MT-10 / Yamaha FZ-10 streetfighter. Other changes include an assist/slipper clutch, quickshifter, new suspension, and a redesigned tail section and fender.

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Is This the Year of the Monkey, The Honda Monkey?

09/22/2016 @ 1:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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If you read as many motorcycle news sites as I do, then you surely know that Honda is almost definitely probably maybe debuting a new “monkey bike” in the near future. The source of this news is Honda’s recent application for design patents in the European and Japanese markets.

Intellectual property filings are a great way of seeing what a motorcycle OEM is up to, but as our colleagues at Motorcycle.com correctly pointed out, they can also be a great source of red herrings.

This is because motorcycle manufacturers not only patent and trademark the design they intend to put into production, but also the design they don’t intend to produce, but have still shown the public. This is just smart policy when it comes to intellectually property protection.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when one sees a filing that exactly mimics a show bike or concept, as we’ve seen this week with the Grom-powered Honda Monkey.

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What Brexit Really Means for the Motorcycle Industry

06/24/2016 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.

But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.

If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.

There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.

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