Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing?

03/05/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing? hero motocorp logo 635x423

Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.

November BMW Sales Up 3.9% – Husqvarna Down 28.4%

12/14/2011 @ 8:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

November BMW Sales Up 3.9%   Husqvarna Down 28.4% husqvarna strada concept motor 635x952

BMW Motorrad’s November sales numbers are in, and they show that the German company is still chugging away at a very strong sales year in 2011. Already surpassing the company’s figures from 2010 by 6.1% (which was no slouch of a year for BMW, we might add), BMW has 100,054 units already under its belt for this year. Moving 6,112 units in November, BMW’s sales are up 3.9% over those from November 2010, which continues the German brand’s strong growth in 2011.

BMW Motorrad, along with most of the European motorcycle brands, have enjoyed relatively positive figures throughout 2011 and in the previous recession. One of the more glaring exceptions to that statement however is Husqvarna. Selling 1,181 units last month, Husqvarna is down 28.4% when compared to November 2010. And for the year as a whole, Husky is down 22.5% compared to 2010, selling only 7,956 units YTD.

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen

11/21/2011 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Suzuki Says Sayonara to Volkswagen volkswagen motor 635x476

Back in 2009 Suzuki and Volkswagen made some headlines, as the German automaker took a 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer. The basic points of the agreement were that Volkswagen would get access to Suzuki’s small-displacement motors and Indian presence, while the latter would benefit from Volkswagen’s larger-vehicle technologies, etc.

Seemingly however doomed from the start, the partnership in motorcycle circles erroneously spurred some interesting thoughts of a Volkswagen motorcycle coming to fruition. While industry journalists spun gold out of hay, the two behemoth manufacturers failed to come to terms on any of their proposed partnership goals, leaving both parties to wonder why they were interested in each other, let alone financially intwined.

Harley-Davidson Q3 Sales Up 5.1% Worldwide

10/19/2011 @ 3:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Q3 Sales Up 5.1% Worldwide Harley Davidson urban 635x423

Harley-Davidson has reported its third quarter sales and earnings to its stockholders, and the Bar & Shield brand is showing a modest up-tick in its Q3 sales. Growing 5.1% globally (61,838 units) for Q3, compared to 2010, Harley-Davidison has had similar growth in the US, where sales were up 5.4% (42,640 units). Year-to-date (YTD) sales globally were up 4.9% (194,829 units), continuing the bottoming-out trend in 2011 (up 4.7% in the US, or 127,930 units). Despite the modest sales increases, Harley-Davidson’s financials are significantly stronger than before, with the company posting a 95.9% increase in income from continuing operations.

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3?

08/30/2011 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3? mv agusta f3 635x423

All is not well regarding the new MV Agusta F3, several sources have now told Asphalt & Rubber. Teasing the F3 motorcycle for almost two years now, the three-cylinder supersport has been on the radar of two-wheeled enthusiasts since well before its 2010 debut at the EICMA show. While the latest creation from Varese is undisputedly a stunner, and promises some more than peppy performance and features, eyebrows within the industry were raised with its very pre-mature debut in Milan, and its accompanying lack of any real concrete technical specifications.

With products traditionally launched at the November EICMA show going on sale immediately the next model year, MV Agusta made a shocking announcement in 2010 that the F3 would be a 2012 model. Obviously launched with the intention of generating immediate buzz about the newly re-acquired MV Agusta brand, and its goal of becoming a larger volume producer (and actually a profitable company for a change), the F3 and its progeny like the MV Agusta Brutale B3 are supposed to usher in a new era for the Italian brand.

Apparently teased early to help prove demand for MV’s new product offering, this new ethos unfortunately has apparently done little to sway creditors and investors on the viabiliy of the brand, especially since the names associated with driving MV Agusta into the ground are still associted with the decidedly not-so-new regime. Though the Castiglionis were able to negotiate a stellar deal with Harley-Davidson regarding the purchase of MV Agusta (they bought the company for one euro, and got an operating cash flow of 20 million in the bank), according to our sources that are close to MV, the Italian company has had a hard time raising additional working capital, and has also found negotiations with parts suppliers to be difficult, with the outside firms demanding to be paid up-front for their wares.

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus

08/17/2011 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Funded: Mission Motors Closes $9 Million Series B Financing Round Lead by Warburg Pincus Mission Motors team Laguna Seca 635x422

News comes to us from across the Bay this morning, as Mission Motors has announced that it has closed a $9 million Series B financing round led by Warbug Pincus. A global private equity firm with $30 billion in assets under management, Warbug Pincus invested $7.5 million in Mission Motors (with room up to an additional $41 million), while Infield Capital, one of Mission’s original investors, doubled-dipped back into the company, presumably with the remaining $1.5 million for the series.

The use of funds will go towards Mission Motors’s continued venture of supplying OEM customers with electric and hybrid drive train solutions — an exclusive endeavor the company has been undertaking for over a year now, but apparently something the less-informed motorcycle press is only now taking notice of today.

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock?

08/15/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock? Ducati Superbike 1198 SP 635x475

According to the Dow Jones Newswire, Investindustrial, the private equity firm behind Ducati Motor Holding SpA, is considering putting the Italian motorcycle company’s stock up for sale in a private offering next year. Investindustrial bought the Texas Pacific Group’s 45% share in Ducati back in 2006, becoming the company’s largest single investor. Later in June 2008, the private equity firm lead by Carlo and Andrea Bonomi increased its stake in Ducati, controlling 84.6% of the company’s stock.

If today’s rumors are true, Investindustrial would be dumping some, if not all, of its shares in Ducati, likely into other investment groups. Though other motorcycles news sites are quick to call this an IPO, there is no indication at this time that Investindustrial plans on making the stock offering public (the Dow Jones Newswire in fact specifically says that the offering is private), meaning that Ducati’s stock will not be available to regular stock purchasers, but will instead be bid on by banks, investment groups, and other large corporations.

Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM

07/28/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM KTM 125 Duke Stunt 635x421

Bajaj Auto has an insatiable appetite for KTM, and the Indian company has slowly been gobbling up KTM stock, and now is just under a 40% shareholder in the Austrian motorcycle company. With Cross Industries AG holding 51% of the company in its control, the Austrians have made it clear that they will not give up majority control of KTM, especially to the Indian automotive company. However, analysts are predicting Bajaj could take its partnership with KTM to its limit, purchasing up to 49% of the company’s stock.

Polaris Posts 41% Sales Revenue Gain for Q2 2011

07/20/2011 @ 9:27 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Polaris Posts 41% Sales Revenue Gain for Q2 2011  Victory burnout 635x420

Polaris has been the company on the move in 2011, and its second quarter earnings show why. Gobbling up Indian and then later GEM, Polaris has shown that it has an appetite for growth, which has been fueled by its strong sales, which have increased in revenue by 41% over Q2 2010. Perhaps more impressive is that the American company has parlayed that increase in revenue into a 90% increase in net income over the same time period, which has been a boon for the company’s shareholders and a testament to the company’s reduced-cost structures.

Harley-Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006

07/19/2011 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006 Harley Davidson Juneau corporate 635x421

Harley-Davidson had some good news to report in its Q2 2011 financial report, as the Milwaukee company reports selling 53,599 units to customers in the US during the three-month period, and total of 83,396 units worldwide (120,642 units worldwide so far this year). These sales figures translate into a 5.6% sales increase worldwide, and an even more impressive 7.5% sales bump in the United States market.

While those increases might seem modest, CEO Keith Wandell’s restructuring efforts have clearly been paying off for the Bar & Shield brand as operating income was up 36.8% for Q2, while revenue was up only 18% to $1.34 billion. This is also the first year-over-year quarterly rise for unit sales that Harley-Davidson has seen since the Q4 2006. Read that last sentence again, but it’s sort of a big deal for Harley-Davidson.