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.

The Epic Story of Barry Sheene is Coming to the Big Screen

02/12/2016 @ 11:13 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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Barry Sheene is one of grand prix racing’s greatest riders, and perhaps one of its most intriguing characters. The two-time World Champion comes from a era when motorcycle racers were as unapologetic as the machines they rode, and Sheene exemplified both those those facts to the maximum.

Perhaps the original playboy of grand prix racing, Sheene eventually married Penthouse model Stephanie McLean – you’ve likely seen the set of iconic photos with her in Sheene’s unzipped leathers.

A heavy smoker, a big drinker, and a constant partier, Sheene represents a forgotten time in motorcycle racing where polished personalities weren’t the norm, and the personality of racers weren’t whitewashed by PR firms.

Why are we telling you all this? Because the epic story of Barry Sheene is finally coming to the silver screen, thanks to IO Films Australia and Deep Spring Pictures UK. It looks like it’s still early days for the crew, but the trailer is waiting for you after the jump.

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Hitting the Apex – Mark Neale’s New Movie About MotoGP

08/24/2015 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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MotoGP fans should recognize the name Mark Neale, as he has produced some of the sport’s most popular movies, such as Faster, The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid, the sequel Fastest, and now Hitting the Apex.

Continuing the timeline of Neale’s films, Hitting the Apex chronicles six riders: Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli, and Marc Marquez.

The movie picks-up just as Valentino Rossi is making his way from Yamaha to Ducati, carries us into the start of the 2015 season, and touches on the major events of those seasons. Neale as always provides a good balance between making MotoGP appealing to non-enthusiasts, while keeping plenty on the table for avid fans.

We’ll do a full review closer to the movie’s debut, but we think that fans and soon-to-be-fans will enjoy the two-hour film. We certainly did.

After the jump is the trailer for Hitting the Apex, and you will note it is narrated by Brad Pitt, who Neale tells us was instrumental behind-the-scenes in getting the movie released.

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A Shameless Opportunity to Talk About Mad Max: Fury Road

07/28/2014 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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Apparently there’s a new Mad Max reboot coming out, and it looks awesome. I have nothing really to say beyond that, and will argue a tenuous link to our usual content on Asphalt & Rubber because motorcycles are one of the best ways to survive the onslaught Imperator Furisoa (Charlize Theron) in George Miller’s post-apocolyptic imagination.

It’s interesting to think about Hollywood’s inclusion of motorcycles in collapse-of-civilization scenarios though. Is it because two-wheeled transportation is the best way to get around when roads no longer exist, much in the same way that Riders for Health uses motorcycles to effectively get medical aid to remote locations?

Or, is it some subliminal message that Hollywood feeds off of (and thus also helps create) that tells us society has truly fallen apart if we are riding motorcycles…much like how a movie character’s act of smoking a cigarette was used to heighten his/hers cool or mysterious persona?

I don’t know the answer to those question, but it keeps me up at night. I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller!

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Get Excited for “On Any Sunday, The Next Chapter”

05/13/2014 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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I have had to zip my lips for far too long about this project, but A&R can finally tell you about On Any Sunday, The Next Chapter – the sequel to the famous documentary of a similar name.

A project by Dana Brown, the son of Bruce Brown, the man who filmed the original On Any Sunday, this next installment follows a variety of amateur and professional racers and enthusiasts, from a broad-spectrum of two-wheeled disciplines.

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Fund This Documentary: “It’s Something Inside”

02/24/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Last month, our friend John Shofner (you may have seen some of his work on A&R already) sent us a link to a project he was working on, and we couldn’t wait for it to become a reality.

So finally, we can talk about the full-length documentary, It’s Something Inside, that Shofner Films hopes to produce, which will tell the story behind America’s two-wheeled petrol racing culture.

To help raise the $400,000 that the It’s Something Inside project will need to produce the film, John has turned to the crowd-sourcing platform of Kickstarter.

If funded (your contributions only get collected if John meets his fundraising goal), and once completed, Shofner Films will then pitch the film to various film festivals, with the hope of ultimately getting a theater or TV deal for the film.

As you can tell from the trailer above, and the stills after the jump, John has a great photographic eye; and his previous work, including a documentary of the karting scene, shows his immense talent in storytelling as well.

We are pretty pumped to see this project go forward, and if you are too, we hope you will contribute some money towards his Kickstarter fund. Count us in for a couple bucks John!

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Yamaha Riding Academy and the Story of Hidenobu Toh

11/17/2013 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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You may remember the well-done short film that Yamaha Racing put together recently about Kazutoshi Seki, the man behind the electronics of Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP race bike, and how great of a job Yamaha did in portraying someone in the MotoGP paddock that you likely have never heard of, but whose contributions are so vital to what happens on the race track every weekend.

Well today we bring you an earlier installment of Yamaha’s “Moving You” series, from which that video came from, and which instead focuses on the Yamaha Riding Academy (YRA) and its Chief Instructor Hidenobu “Concorde” Toh.

A film about the work that Yamaha does beyond just selling motorcycles, it highlights the fact that YRA primarily deals with police forces around the world, and that Toh-san is responsible for teaching the motorcycle officers both basic and advanced riding techniques, which will serve them in the line of duty, and could make the difference between life and death.

As the video explains, this is a high-stakes training effort, as many of the countries involved use officers on motorcycles for their most dangerous assignments. In that regard, Toh-san and his instructors are tasked with giving these officers the tools they need to not only perform their jobs, but to also come home safe from assignment.

Like its MotoGP counterpart, it is well-told story that focuses on the work of one individual, and how that person contributes to a larger effort. It also happens to be a great eleven-minute distraction from your weekend, which we think you will enjoy.

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Trailer: Why We Ride

10/23/2013 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Though the trailer to Why We Ride has been around for some time now, we have been getting emails about the two-wheeled documentary ever since its limited screening at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. Encompassing every form of the motorcycling lifestyle, all accounts we have heard about the film say its a feel-good movie with a positive message about motorcycles. Think of it as a recruitment film for future motorcyclists.

Screenings of Why We Ride are limited though, with the movie set to debut in New York and Los Angeles, and with future screenings being held in the Southern California area. Hopefully the Why We Ride team can add other locales to the list. If they want to have a screening in San Francisco, Asphalt & Rubber is down to help with that. The trailer is after the jump. Enjoy!

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Video: Road Warriors 2012

02/13/2013 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Self-described as an “all access behind the scenes with the fastest riders in America,” Road Warriors is a documentary that follows five riders in the AMA Pro Road Racing Championship over the 2012 season: Josh Hayes, Danny Eslick, Melissa Paris, Elena Myers, and Austin Dehaven.

In a series that desperately needs to promote the sport and the riders within it, Road Warriors looks to be a much needed shot in the arm for AMA Pro Racing. We hope the full-length documentary is just as good as the trailer, and that it helps generate some buzz for the 2013 season. Check it out after the jump, and be sure to follow the film’s Facebook page.

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Grand Prix Racer – A Documentary on the Manx GP

01/29/2013 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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If you haven’t seen TT3D: Closer to the Edge, the documentary about the Isle of Man TT, then you owe it to yourself to beg, borrow, or steal a copy for your viewing pleasure (we enjoyed it greatly at our viewing at the Isle of Man). A follow-up to that venerable film (no, not this), from the Isle of Man comes Grand Prix Racer, a documentary that covers that other race over the Snaefell Mountain Course: the Manx Grand Prix.

Originally a race for amateurs that was designed to help introduce them to the TT, the Manx GP runs on the same 37 mile course as the TT and uses the same time trial format. Building its regulations to cater to older machinery, the Manx Grand Prix has just recently gone through a brand and format restructuring to make it more of a “Classic TT” event, helping differentiate the autumn race from its summer counterpart.

The restructuring is surely due to the hope by the Isle of Man government to make the Manx Grand Prix as much of a headline and destination event for motorcycle enthusiasts as the TT, and to aid in that effort the island nation has, followed-up the progress made by TT3D by producing Grand Prix Racer.

With a one-hour version of the film set to air on Britain’s ITV4 network on Tuesday, February 5th at 8pm, the film will also be made available to international broadcasters (cross your fingers America). A DVD of the film will be available March 4th. Check the trailer out after the jump.

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This Isn’t a Motorcycle Commercial, But It Should Be

02/08/2012 @ 11:41 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

For the uninitiated readers of Asphalt & Rubber, I have an axe to grind with the way OEMs market our sport, lifestyle, and culture. For an industry that centers so heavily around the idea of personal freedoms and individuality, the way motorcycle brands engage motorcyclists is appalling.

Often creating cheap one-dimensional campaigns that feed into the most base stereotypes available, it is rare to find any sort of marketing campaign that touches on the nerves of why we ride motorcycles. We’ve seen the car. We know it exists. And yet, we choose to ride motorcycles. Think about it.

If what is after the jump costs 10x what a normal cheap YouTube flick from (insert OEM here), then I’ll take 10x less marketing material from any motorcycle manufacturer if what I do end up seeing looks this good, and actually has this much substance. Like the Escapism short we debuted by friend Barry Munsterteiger, this film Joy Ride by Sandro has the same level of quality and storytelling we need to publish in the industry.

For bonus points, it shows that motorcyclists are real people with depth and character; and for ultra-bonus points, the star of the film is some guy named Mark Miller.The only thing that I hate about this video? It was made to promote a new digital SLR camera, not a motorcycle. Wake up people.

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