Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.