“Stop Sale & Stop Ride” Issued for the Polaris Slingshot

Polaris Slingshot owners should take note, as Polaris Industries issued a “Stop Sale & Stop Ride” this week for two issues found on the Slingshot. As the name implies, this special recall advises all Slingshot owners to stop riding their three-wheelers, and all Slingshot dealers to stop selling the vehicles, until the two issues are resolved. The first issue involves the ball bearings on the steering rack, which have been deemed faulty by Polaris. It’s been determined that because of the faulty ball bearings on the Slingshot, the steering system could fail, resulting in an unexpected total loss of steering. The second issue involves the roll hoops over the driver and passenger seats on the Slingshot.

Report: Honda RC213V-S Priced at ¥20 Million

According to a report made by The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest daily newspaper, Honda has green-lit the RC213V-S project, with a price tag of 20 million yen — roughly $170,000 USD. The Honda RC213V-S debuted at the 2014 EICMA show, and was as advertised: a MotoGP race bike with lights and mirrors added to it. Honda teased show-goers and the media by say that the RC213V-S model was only a prototype, adding more fuel to the speculation regarding whether the Japanese firm would actually produce the long-awaited model. Since its inception, price figures have been rumored and banded about, almost all of which were in the six-figure category.

Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

01/02/2015 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine.

The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride.

The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine.

Did Nissan Just Make the Ultimate Motorcycle Engine?

01/28/2014 @ 7:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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Nissan Motor Company is better known for its four-wheeled vehicle pursuits, so it might surprise you to see its name mentioned here on Asphalt & Rubber. To front load the answer to your most pressing question, no the Japanese marque is not getting into the two-wheeled universe.

However, Nissan has been doing some interesting work, ever since it took over the DeltaWing project. In a nutshell, the Nissan DeltaWing was a failed IndyCar replacement race car project that aimed to push the boundaries of light, aerodynamical, and efficient vehicle design.

It found new legs in the endurance racing arena though, and participated in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans — however it didn’t finish the iconic race, when a competitor crashed into it 75 laps into the race.

Nissan and the DeltaWing team have since parted ways collaboratively, but the Japanese car maker has clearly learned something from the process. Returning to Le Mans for the 2014 season, Nissan will field a very similar design, which it has dubbed the Nissan ZEOD RC.

A hybrid race car (Nissan hopes to complete its first lap at Le Mans solely on electric battery power), what tickles our fancy most is the 1.5 liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which weighs a featherlight 88 pounds. Twenty inches tall, eight inches wide, the Nissan DIG-T R engine is small, though mighty. How does 400hp grab you?

Rumor: MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster a Turbo?

01/18/2014 @ 9:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Italy’s venerable Motociclismo magazine is starting an interesting rumor that MV Agusta is experimenting with a turbocharged version of its 800cc three-cylinder engine, and that the forced-induction lump could find its way onto the soon-to-be-released MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster model for 2014.

The Italian publication is also running the above render of the machine, which matches up with the photos found earlier this week. Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), list the 2014 model motorcycle as the MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster, and as the name and photos suggest, the “Ducati Diavel rival” is based heavily upon the MV Agusta’s Brutale platform.

Though a highly respected publication, Motociclismo‘s speculation sounds a bit far off the mark this time around to our ears, so as always, time will tell on this one.

More on Kawasaki’s Supercharged Motorcycle Engine

12/09/2013 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The tease of 2013 has to be Kawasaki and its supercharged four-cylinder engine, which the Japanese OEM debuted at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Showing the engine, and giving virtually no information about the intended uses of the supercharged power plant, we have been left to speculate over what Kawasaki’s intentions are in the two-wheeled forced-induction realm.

Diving through the Google’s database of patent applications though,  we see that over the years Kawasaki has published a number of patents that relate to adding a supercharger to a motorcycle. Not only has Kawasaki been thinking about how to fit a supercharger into a motorcycle for some time now, but the OEM has some clever tricks up its sleeve in order to optimize its designs.

Kawasaki Debuts Supercharged Four-Cylinder Engine

11/20/2013 @ 1:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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The start of the Tokyo Motor Show is today, if you haven’t already noticed, and it looks like the Japanese OEMs have saved their best models for the home court advantage this year, with all four of the Big Four having something special for Tokyo.

Yamaha’s big announcement of course is the nearly-ready-for-production Yamaha R25 concept, a 250cc two-cylinder sport bike that Valentino Rossi says “packs quite a punch.” The tuning fork brand also has its more fanciful concepts to show-off, chiefly the Yamaha PES1 electric street bike and the Yamaha PED1 electric dirt bike.

Suzuki is in the mix as well, with its turbocharged Recursion concept, as well as its electric monkey bike, the Extrigger concept. Both of these motorcycles look like a hoot to ride, for very different reasons of course.

Not wanting to be left out on the forced-induction warpath, Kawasaki has its own blower for the two-wheeled world. Showcasing a supercharged four-cylinder engine at its booth, Kawasaki says it developed the turbine and motor in-house, and hints that we will see this in a motorcycle model in the near future.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

11/21/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes. I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market. Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.

It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war. It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.

Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.

Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008. It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.

2013 Bimota DB11 VLX – Supercharged Italian Hotness

11/13/2012 @ 12:56 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Bimota is known for making some exquisite machines by taking production motors from other OEMs, and wrapping those engines in frames of Italian company’s own design. Art on two wheels, Bimota rarely strays from this formula, though when it does, something interesting usually happens. One such example is the 2013 Bimota DB11 VLX , which looks strikingly similar to the Bimota DB9 Brivido we saw at EICMA last year.

Rumor: New Kawasaki ZX-14 Facelift Coming This Month? Supercharged Hypersport Later?

08/11/2011 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Rumors are swelling around the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 (the Kawasaki ZZR1400 for friends on the other side of the pond). First up is that a new updated Kawasaki ZX-14 is set to debut by the end of the month. Expected to be only a cosmetic makeover, the 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14 will mechanically be the same as the current model.

Looking farther down the pipe though, it would seem from reports and patents that Kawasaki has been eyeing putting a supercharger on the hypersport machine, presumably to better position the ZX-14 against the increasingly more powerful 1,000 superbikes, like the company’s on 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R.