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.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

05/09/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs.

Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited.

Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines.

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Gas Gas Rescued by Spanish Firm Torrot

02/16/2016 @ 11:38 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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In case you missed the initial reports, those in the off-road world will be especially happy to hear that Spanish motorcycle maker Gas Gas has been saved from the deadpool. Infusing €13 million into the failing motorcycle brand, Torrot is our unlikely hero, the Spanish firm a producer of electric bicycles and urban mobile two-wheelers.

The cash infusion will come into Gas Gas over the next three years, with a focus on updating the company’s product lineup. This will include bringing Gas Gas back to the trials market in a big way, as well as developing new enduro models. Even electric models in the works.

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See How the Honda RC213V-S Is Painstakingly Built

01/12/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Whatever your thoughts are on the Honda RC213V-S, you have to appreciate the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into the $184,000 MotoGP bike with lights.

With just over 200 units being made, Honda had little incentive to design the RC213V-S for mass production, opting instead to make each unit by hand, with a small team of highly skilled builders.

There is something about that process that gets lost in description, so we are fortunate that Honda Hong Kong released a video (after the jump) that shows the Honda RC213V-S build team hard at work.

A couple mech-geek things of note: at 1:32, the jig used to bring the chassis pieces together for welding; at 1:50, the one-off shaping of the sheet metal for the headstock; at 2:12, how virtually ever metal piece is hand-welded. There is plenty here to geek-out over, enjoy!

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Gas Gas Employees: “KTM, This is Not Your House”

07/30/2015 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber regulars should be aware by now that Spanish trails/enduro manufacturer Gas Gas is in a bit of financial trouble, and is now up for liquidation. One of the suitors of Gas Gas is of course KTM, as the Austrian company is likely eager to add a robust trials machine to its lineup.

There’s a slight problem with that thought though: the Gas Gas employees are well aware of what happened to Husqvarna and its Italian employees, after KTM purchased the Swedish brand from BMW Motorrad, and moved Husky’s Italian operations to Austria.

We don’t think we need to parse too many words explaining the position of some Gas Gas employees, this video says it quite well enough. Watch it, after the jump.

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Watch Ducati Assemble the New Multistrada 1200

03/05/2015 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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When you think about the assembly process involved in making a motorcycle, it is pretty staggering. Not only do Ducati engineers have the task of making the best motorcycle possible, but they also need to design the machine to be easily built by the factory workers at Borgo Panigale.

Which parts should go on before the next? where a cable should be routed through the frame and bodywork? The planning that must go into building out an assembly line is certainly an undertaking I would not want to have.

So while the latest video from Ducati is perhaps not the most ouvertly entertaining, it is certainly impressive nonetheless to watch Italy’s finest assemblying a 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

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KTM’s Austrian Factory Hits 100,000+ Bikes for 2014

12/19/2014 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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KTM has been the highest volume producing European motorcycle company for the past two years running, and zie Austrians are looking to make that a trend in 2014.

As such, the Austrian brand will has some stiff competition this year, seeing as BMW Motorrad already broke last year’s sales figure in the first 11 months of this year — an impressive feat, to be certain.

KTM has the advantage of dabbling in small-displacement machines, with KTM-branded bike coming out of India, courtesy of its minority owner Bajaj. The Indian market has been a larger contributor to KTM’s sales success, but things have been growing in Austria as well.

Announcing that the company’s Mattighofen factory reach 100,000 units this year, for the first time ever, KTM is already celebrating some sales success.

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MV Agusta Factory Flooded by Nearby Lake

11/18/2014 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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After torrential rains this weekend, the MV Agusta factory has been flooded by the nearby Lake Varese. The MV Agusta factory sits on the edge of the lake, and the recent weather has brought the waterline to include the Italian company’s R&D, racing, and testing facilities.

Because of the flooding (nearly a meter higher than usual), production has been halted, and the ~100 employees have been sent home. It’s not clear how long the flooding will continue in Varese, though the current weather, and future forecasts, are favorable to the water subsiding.

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Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

10/14/2014 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines.

The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday.

The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

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Factory Tour: Agostini vs. Rossi – It’s Not What You Think

04/04/2014 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Towards the end of last year, I spent some time bumming around Italy, and one of my many stops was the Dainese headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. A company that is responsible for protecting many of the top motorcycle racers, as well as Yours Truly, Dainese is a company focused on safety, but this focus is really a bi-product of the Italian company’s thirst for competition.

Competition is of course about finding out who is the best, and at the pinnacle of that decision is finding out who is the Greatest of All Time, or G.O.A.T. And in motorcycle racing, when you think of the term “G.O.A.T.” two names come to mind: Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi.

Motorcycle racing fans can debate well into the night as to which of these Italian racers is truly the greatest. Regardless who you pick though, both men are legends, and both men have been supported throughout their careers by Dainese.

That brings us back to my trip to Vicenza, because the battle between these two great riders continues, just not in the way you would suspect.

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Benelli Adds Factory Space & Opens First Store in Brazil

02/12/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Aakash Desai8 COMMENTS

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“Have you ever been to Brazil?” is a common question amongst pale twenty-somethings that have been to the Brazillian Carnaval or New Year’s and come back with a few venereal diseases under their belt (so to speak). Brazil has much more to offer than hedonistic festivals and pristine beaches though.

It’s also home to nearly 200 million people, many of whom ride two wheelers everyday as the ideal form of personal transport. Italian brand, Benelli, has recently announced the opening of 12,500 square meters of additional factory space to the existing 100,000 square meters of space at the Bramont Motorcycle facility in Manaus.

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