Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Honda Doubles Down on India – Expanding Second Plant, Building a Third Plant

05/27/2011 @ 3:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda Doubles Down on India   Expanding Second Plant, Building a Third Plant double down poker 635x476

Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Honda’s wholly-owned motorcycle Indian subsidiary, has announced its intent to essentially double its capacity in the country’s rapidly growing motorcycle market. Expanding on the company’s second plant in the Tapukara Industrial Area of Rajasthan, HMSI also plans on now building a third production facility in the Bangalore area.

Both of these plants will produce 1.2 million units each when at full capacity (the second Tapukara plant currently does 600,000 units per year), bringing HMSI’s total production capacity in India to 4 million units per year. To put things in perspective, Honda’s production levels in India are about eight times the total motorcycle market in the United States of America…for all manufacturers.

Honda Restarting Motorcycle Production March 28th

03/25/2011 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Honda Restarting Motorcycle Production March 28th Honda Kumamoto factory assembly line 635x423

Honda has announced that it will be restarting motorcycle production at its Kumamoto factory as of Monday, March 28th. Initially closing all its facilities in Japan after the devastation caused by the Sendai earthquake, Kumamoto will be one of Honda’s first facilities to re-open in almost two weeks’ time.

While the company’s Sayama, Saitama, and Suzuka facilities will remain closed through April 3rd, Honda will make a decision on when to restart production at those locations as that date becomes closer. Honda will continue to make decisions on its operations from this date forth, keeping a close eye on its supply chain and the good of the country as whole as the situation in Japan continues to change and evolve.

Update on the Status of the Motorcycle Factories in Japan

03/21/2011 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Update on the Status of the Motorcycle Factories in Japan Kumamoto Honda plant 635x423

As Japan continues to battle with the aftermath from its 9.0 earthquake, the Japanese motorcycle industry has been placed into a holding pattern while the country handles more pressing issues. With news that the Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha factories would be temporarily shutting down last week, more news has been released updating us on the status with these companies. Issuing current statements are: Bridgestone, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. Check their statuses after the jump.

Watch the Ducati Diavel Get Built in 1 Minute

02/23/2011 @ 10:28 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Watch the Ducati Diavel Get Built in 1 Minute 2011 ducati diavel carbon 635x457

Here’s a cool time-lapse video put together by MCN that follows the 2011 Ducati Diavel power cruiser getting built at Ducati’s Bologna factory. Ducati is currently building 40 Diavel’s per day on its rolling assembly line, but that number is set to increase by 50% in the coming weeks as the Italian company predicts strong sales in the summer months. As was seen last year with the Multistrada 1200, Ducati expects the Diavel to lead the company’s sales in 2011.

For Sale: One Italian Motorcycle Company – Slightly Used

02/18/2011 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

For Sale: One Italian Motorcycle Company   Slightly Used Moto Morini Scrambler 1200 635x423

Moto Morini’s bankruptcy has been going painfully slow, but it’s all about to come to a head, as the Italian company will be put up on the auction block April 13th. The Super-Saver Moto Morini package includes all the appropriate intellectual property, assets, and equipment (sans motorcycles, which are being sold separately) for the cool sum of €5.5 million. Should no one want the whole kit ‘n kaboodle, a cheaper price of €2.6 million will be set for the production complex with two years use included. These prices are of course the auction’s guide prices.

Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant – Consolidates in France

02/07/2011 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant   Consolidates in France Yamaha Logo 635x424

Yamaha recently announced that it will be closing its factory in northeastern Spain, and consolidating the production into its Saint Quintin plant in France. The move comes as a result of Yamaha feeling the pain from the dwindling global demand for motorcycles, resulting in the Spanish plant having considerable excess capacity in its production.

Located near Barcelona, Yamaha’s Spanish Palau-Solita i Plegamans facility is capable of producing 130,000 units per year, but only managed 96,000 in 2010. The plant’s closure will affect 420 jobs, and Yamaha management has already reportedly confirmed that they will be forgoing any bonuses for the first half of 2011, and will be taking a healthy pay cut (15%-30%) during the same time period.

Vyrus 986 M2 Gets Three-Tiered Pricing & DIY Kit – Race: €55,000 – Street: €25,000 – Kit: €16,900

01/25/2011 @ 6:55 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Vyrus 986 M2 Gets Three Tiered Pricing & DIY Kit   Race: €55,000   Street: €25,000   Kit: €16,900 vyrus 986 m2 verona unveiling 6 635x423

Our friends at MotoBlog.it continue to have the inside track on the recently debuted Vyrus 986 M2 that was unveiled at the Verona Bike Show this past weekend. The Italian boutique manufacturer confirmed that it wanted to offer the Vyrus 986 M2 to teams competing in the Moto2 World Championship, and hinted that a production version could come father down the line, later revealing that we could expect to see a street bike as early as Sepetember of this year.

Now getting a chance to talk to Ascanio Rodorigo, MotoBlog.it has revealed that Vyrus 986 M2 will come in different variations, a Moto2-ready race bike (Factory), a street bike (SL Replica), and a do-it-yourself self kit (Replica Kit), which sees a rider buying just the rolling chassis and having to source their own motor. There’s a price point for everyone in this launch, as the Factory will cost €55,000, the SL Replica €25,000, and the Replica Kit rounding out things at €16,900.

US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding

01/20/2011 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding us highland viking 950 vtwin 635x423

Six months after US Highland lost three members of its executive team in a tragic small-plane accident, the American company has announced that it will be idling its Tulsa plant while it continues to finish its latest round of funding. Despite this news, US Highland is reportedly close to achieving its fundraising goals, and hopes to have production rolling again once the fundraising is complete.

The Southbridge Advisory Group (SAG) has been brought in to help find a new executive team for US Highland, and is also helping the motorcycle manufacturer find new investors. While any one of these goals would be a large undertaking on its own, having to contend both with raising capital and finding a new executive team is a daunting task.

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand

01/06/2011 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand 2011 Ducati Superbike 848 EVO 635x423

Get ready to pour some peanut sauce on your spaghetti as Bologna Bullets destined for the Southeast Asian markets will soon be produced in Ducati’s newly planned factory in Thailand.

Being called a “final assembly” plant, the move is similar to the one that Harley-Davidson undertook late last year, where the Bar & Shield brand setup an assembly plant in India in order to side-step the extremely high tariffs the country puts on foreign-made motorcycles.

In addition to Harley-Davidson, Ducati will be joining the likes of Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Brembo, all of whom have increased their presence in the Asian markets within the past year to capitalize on the growing economies of India, China, and Southeast Asia.

Harley-Davidson & Labor Unions Edge Closer to Keeping Production in Wisconsin

09/07/2010 @ 12:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson & Labor Unions Edge Closer to Keeping Production in Wisconsin Harley Davison Softail Fat Boy 635x476

After putting Wisconsin on notice that it was shopping around for other places to build its motorcycles, Harley-Davdison has reached a tentative agreement with local labor unions that would keep the Bar and Shield brand in The Cheese State. Harley and union officials have not disclosed the terms of the deal, but both the Harley-Davidson and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are recommending approval of the deal. The terms of the deal are expected to be released next week, so union members can vote on the contract on September 13th.