Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

For Sale: One Italian Motorcycle Company – Slightly Used

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

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.

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Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant – Consolidates in France

02/07/2011 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant – Consolidates in France

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.

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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

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.

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US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding

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

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.

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Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand

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

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.

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

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

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.

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Ben Spies to Factory Yamaha Team

08/27/2010 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Ben Spies to Factory Yamaha Team

As expected, Ben Spies and Yamaha have announced that the current World Superbike Champion and MotoGP rookie will move up to the factory Yamaha team (noticeably not called Fiat-Yamaha in the press release) for the 2011 season. Spies’ move to the factory squad has lovingly been referred to as the “second worst-kept secret in MotoGP,” right after Rossi’s departure from the Fiat-Yamaha team to Ducati Corse.

Hinting at his move yesterday, Spies had made good on his promise to announce something during the Indianapolis GP weekend. “We’re delighted that Ben will join the Factory Team for next season,” said Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing. “Ben has shown great promise in his first ten MotoGP races. He has learnt rapidly and recorded strong results, including a well-deserved podium finish at Silverstone – impressive for someone in their first full season.”

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Moto Morini Purchase Almost Complete

06/09/2010 @ 8:28 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After getting his first offer to purchase Moto Morini rejected by the local unions, Paolo Berlusconi looks to have overcome the setback, and could finalize the purchase of the other Bologna brand by as early as next week. This news comes after provincial administrators called an emergency meeting, which resulted in some concession by Berlusconi.

At the center of the controversy is the number of workers Berlusconi will keep on at the Bologna-based plant. According to reports, this number has been increased from 20 to 26, out of total of 57 workers who worked at the plant before it entered into receivership. This concession does not come without consequences though.

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Watch the Honda VFR1200F Be Built Every 90 Seconds at Kumamoto Factory

02/02/2010 @ 5:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Honda’s factory in Kumamoto is a high-tech enviormentally friendly facility that might just be as innovative as the new VFR1200F. Churning out a new VFR every 90 seconds, Kumamoto’s wrenches are all digitally linked, and store build information for each individual motorcycle. Did worker X have a habit of over-tightening the connecting rods? If so Honda can track exactly which bikes were affected by his/her mistake, pinpointing the problem. That’s pretty cool in our book.

Check out the video after the jump for more information about the Kumamota plant and watch the VFR1200F get put together.

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Reports of Moto Morini’s Death Appear to Be Un-True

12/09/2009 @ 9:23 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

After we posted yesterday that Moto Morini had shut down its production line, amid the Italian company’s financial problems, other publications began covering the company’s complete closure. This caught the folks at Moto Morini off-guard, who while on an extended day-off, insist they are still keeping the production line functioning, if admittedly at a significantly reduced capacity.

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