Guy Martin Racing A Mugen Electric Bike at Isle of Man TT

Guy Martin’s return to the road racing at the Isle of Man TT continues to draw big headlines, and while we already know that the Lincolnshire man would partner with John McGuinness on the factory Honda Racing team of this year’s TT, that’s not all. Today, we learn that Guy Martin will partner with John McGuinness on another team as well, and he will once again take the seat on an electric bike for the TT Zero class in the process. As such, Martin has been confirmed as Team Mugen’s second rider, replacing Bruce Anstey in the squad. Both McGuinness and Martin will race on the new Mugen Shinden Roku electric superbike – the sixth iteration of the Japanese outfits TT Zero racer – and they will be looking to break the 120 mph barrier for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT.

What the Sepang MotoGP Test Tells Us About Race Pace

What conclusions can we draw from the first MotoGP test of 2017 at Sepang? Well, it’s the first test of 2017, and the factories still have the best part of two months to refine their bikes before the season starts in earnest in Qatar. Any conclusions we draw are at risk of crashing headlong into reality at the end of March. But with all that data from the test available, it is hard to resist the temptation to dive into it and read the tea leaves. To make some sense of the timesheets from Sepang, I examined the lap times of the fastest thirteen riders at the end of Wednesday. The reason for selecting Wednesday was simple: as it was the last day of the test, the riders were all fully up to speed, and the teams were putting together the lessons they had learned on the first two days.

Piaggio Gita, An Autonomous Two-Wheeler for the Future

When you think of the Piaggio Group, in terms of its two-wheeled creations, your thoughts probably conjure up images of motorcycles made by Aprilia or Moto Guzzi, or maybe a scooter with a Vespa badge on it. Surely, the Gita is not what first comes first to your mind, but it might be the most impactful idea from the Italian brand to-date. Sure, the brightly colored self-balancing rolling cylinder doesn’t seem like much of a novel creation, even with its ability to follow its owner, or autonomously navigate a prescribed route. But then again, you have probably been carrying stuff around in our arms, or on your back, like a big sucker.

2018 KTM 790 Duke Spotted in the Wild

We know that we can expect a finalized version of the KTM 790 Duke at this year’s EICMA show in Milan, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the streetfighter model has been caught testing by spy photographers. The bike’s parallel-twin engine can clearly be spotted in the pictures, tipping us to its model, and many of the lines from the prototype machine remain, as further clues. Though, noticeable differences include a new tail section design, different exhaust, as well as a headlight. The headlight is clearly derived from KTM’s new design language, and its shape mimics what we’ve seen already added to the Duke, Super Duke, and Adventure lineup. The KTM 790 Duke prototype hinted that we would see a similar face in the new hoon-machine, so no surprises there.

Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship. Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season. With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

Harley-Davidson Sales Dropped 1.6% in 2016

01/31/2017 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

As motorcycle manufacturers report their 2016 numbers, we see the continued trend that last year was a tough year for OEMs in the USA. Harley-Davidson reports that its sales dropped 1.6% overall (262,221 units) in 2016, but that number doesn’t paint the full picture for the Bar & Shield brand.

Harley-Davidson sales were down 3.9% in the USA for the 2016 sales cycle (161,658 units), which is a stark contrast to the 2.3% growth Harley-Davidson saw abroad with its international sales.

These losses translated to Harley-Davidson’s balance sheet, with the company posting an 8% decrease in net income, making $692.2 million in 2016. Consolidated revenue remained steady however, at $6 billion.

The Great Motorcycle Buyer Divide

12/13/2016 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

In my last A&R Pro article, I argued that the recently debuted and updated Honda Rebel was the most important new motorcycle that we have seen thus far for the 2017 model year.

That is a bold statement, as many pointed out, especially when you consider the bevy of intriguing new models that were unveiled at the various industry trade shows this year, and also considering the lack-luster product the outgoing Honda Rebel 250 proved to be for many.

In that story, the bulk of my argument was that motorcycling needs an affordable gateway for young and new riders to come into the industry, and with cruisers accounting for over half of the new motorcycles sold in the United States, having cruiser-styled entry models is a shrewd move by Honda.

There is more to that argument though, which I want to touch upon today. It concerns the growing divide of motorcycle buyers, and how their access to capital greatly affects the motorcycles they can, and do, purchase.

American motorcycles sales fall almost entirely under what is called consumer discretionary income, and when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money, there are two ways we do so: with cash and with credit.

That is the fairly obvious part of this argument, but this is an important concept for us as enthusiasts and consumers to understand, as it allows us to make better sense of the strategies behind the new models we see from manufacturers. It also allows us to peer into the future of the motorcycle industry.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

11/20/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

2017-mv-agusta-f4-rc-16

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state.

Italy’s Guardia di Finanza had found that the Italian company had been using the social security contributions of its workers to pay down the money owed to parts suppliers (something MV Agusta disputes is the case), and earlier this year MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni was investigated for irregularities on his tax return.

All of this is on top of the ever precarious financial situation MV Agusta has been in for the past year, which has resulted in the company looking to restructure its €50 million debt in the Italian court system, furlough a good portion of its workforce, and reduce its production volume to roughly 9,000 units per year.

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.

Police Find MV Agusta Misused Social Security Funds

11/17/2016 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-logo-new-1

More bad news comes from Italy, as MV Agusta has come under investigation by the Guardia di Finanza for allegedly misusing its employees’ INPS contributions (Italy’s national pension system, similar to the USA’s Social Security system), which may have gone to paying bills from suppliers, to the tune of €6.8 million.

To put this into context for our American readers, Italy’s Guardia di Finanza is law enforcement agency that handles financial crimes – its duties and powers are analogous to the intersection on a Venn diagram that is composed of our IRS, FTC, and US Customs bureaus.

Italian businesses are required to pay into the INPS pensions of their employees, and here the Guardia di Finanza has been investigating whether MV Agusta used those funds instead to pay its supplier invoices. MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni denies the allegations, though has some financial issues of his own to contend with.

Right Now Is the Best Time to Buy A New Motorcycle

10/26/2016 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

wacky_waving_inflatable_arm_flailing_tube_man

With all the new motorcycles for the 2017 model year debuting right now, it might seem counter-intuitive that this would be the right time to make a trip down to your local motorcycle dealership, but it is. Let me explain.

After seeing a modest rebounding of sales and momentum from the recession, this year has been a stumbling block for the motorcycle industry, with sales at the beginning of the year building slowly, before tapering off later in the summer and early fall.

Economic indicators are up, unemployment is down, but the third quarter results from around the industry are pointing to the US motorcycle market taking a market contraction for 2016. The reason for this is uncertainty.

Skully Officially Closes, So Just How SOL Are You Actually?

08/06/2016 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

skully-ar-1-helmet

Skully on Friday finally acknowledged what has already been known in the motorcycling community: the company was going out of business. The news comes after a last-minute effort by the remaining management to secure a new round of funding.

With $15 million down the drain, work still to do before the Skully AR-1 would be ready to ship, and a growing group of disgruntled early adopters, Skully’s resurrection was not to be.

Instead in a letter to backers and customers, Skully announced that it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure for companies that are going out of business. This news, of course, directly impacts the thousands of motorcyclists who were expecting to receive a Skully AR-1 helmet.

MV Agusta In Talks with New Investors

08/01/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2016-MV-Agusta-Brutale-800-technical-sketch

News out of Italy is that MV Agusta is courting not one, but three potential investors that would takeover Mercedes-AMG’s stake in the two-wheeled company.

As we have covered extensively already, MV Agusta is in quite the precarious financial position, with cash flow issues compounding the unhappy marriage between the Italian motorcycle-maker and the German automobile manufacturer.

MV Agusta would like to divest Mercedes from its business, but that comes with complications involving the immediate payback of debts, should Mercedes-AMG’s position in MV Agusta drops below 20%.

In order to make that divesture, MV Agusta would need not only an investor who would bring sizable amounts of cash to the table to keep MV Agusta’s business running, but one who can also cover the €15 million debt whose payment would be triggered by Mercedes-AMG’s business departure.

Skully Closes Its Doors and Ceases Operations

07/26/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

skully-ar-1-helmet-black

It was just two weeks ago that we told you about Skully’s investors ousting brothers Marcus Weller and Mitch Weller from the San Francisco startup, and today TechCrunch reports that the motorcycle helmet company will be rather swiftly closing its doors.

A&R readers may remember that Skully’s latest delay to market stemmed from the Skully AR-1 helmet not being ready for mass production, despite the nearly $15 million raised through seed money and a Series A funding round, which was led by Intel Capital.

As such, the closure surely stems from Skully’s investors choosing to shut down the company’s operations, rather than rebuild Skully’s tarnished reputation and retool its product for mass production.

According to TechCrunch, operations at Skully have already ceased, and the website is expected to go offline later today, though as of this writing Skully’s website remains, and its social marketing team is still on Facebook cooling the heels of angry customers.

Harley-Davidson Takeover Rumors Spur Wall Street, Again

07/07/2016 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

harley-davidson-logo-blank

If you believed the reports from the financial sector, Harley-Davidson is a prime candidate right now for a hostile takeover by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a global private equity firm.

The news sent shockwaves through Wall Street, with Harley-Davidson’s stock gaining 20% in value in a single day, as investors tried to capitalize on the news.

You are just hearing about this news on Asphalt & Rubber though for two reasons, 1) I’ve been on either a motorcycle, plane, trolley, or car for the past few days (just getting back from Italy), and 2) we have seen this all this before, and it wasn’t pretty.

Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

06/16/2016 @ 3:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati-Multistrada-1200-Enduro-action-09

After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal.

Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, this announcement failed to impress analysts investors; but for Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group.

To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed and conveyed to Asphalt & Rubber the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE” which is as straight and to the point as you can get.