Ride in Peace, Author Robert Pirsig

I first heard of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR600F2. I was stuck in the middle of Dunsmuir, California with a bad rectifier/regulator (a common trouble-spot on that model bike), and a passerby recommended the title. I think they referred the book out of naiveté its content, but obviously the novel, despite its title, would do little to help my immediate problem with my Honda, though it was a good read about some general philosophic ideas, which I could chew-on after I got my CBR bumped-started and back on the road again. Undoubtedly, you have likely heard of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

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.

In the Future, You Will Fly on Your Motorcycle – But Today, You Can Only Build It Out of LEGOs

02/16/2017 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

You may remember the LEGO Technic set of the BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle that we featured not too long ago. Now the German automotive brand and Danish toymaker have collaborated to bring an “alternative model” to the 603-piece building block toy set.

Making the R1200GS Adventure model toy now a 2-in-1 kit, the collaboration between BMW and Lego has produced a futuristic flying motorcycle called the Hover Ride Design Concept.

Interestingly enough, the BMW Junior Company – a BMW Group training unit – will build a full-size replica of what this flying R1200GS could look like (complete with its boxer engine, which of course makes perfect sense).

The future of motorcycles may see our sport evolving into something similar to what is rendered here. But for now, the closest we’ll get to the future is this LEGO set.

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A Glimpse into Kawasaki’s A.I. for Motorcycles

12/19/2016 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

A few months ago, we told you that Kawasaki was working on an artificial intelligence system for motorcycles, and while the term “artificial intelligence” is thrown around too liberally, the proposal from Team Green was an interesting one for the Japanese manufacturer.

Details were light at the time, but now Kawasaki has released a demo video showing how it sees its “A.I.” system working with motorcyclists.

The demo isn’t too compelling, with many of the features being just an implementation of vehicle-to-vehcile systems with a voice-command veneer tacked on top of it,  but it does show that Kawasaki is feigning interest into what the future will hold for motorcyclists.

The question will be though, when true artificial intelligence hits the mainstream, will our robot overlords be more like JARVIS or HAL 9000?

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Watch a Tesla Drive Around Town, By Itself

11/21/2016 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

tesla-self-driving-car-video

So, this is what the future is going to look like. “Drivers” will hop into their cars, and zip around town, without paying any attention to the road in front of them. Cynics might say that already happens, but this scenario is about to move from hyperbole to reality very, very quickly, in a very, very interesting way.

When I say it will be interesting, I mean it in the old Chinese curse of “may you live in interesting times” sort of way.

Autonomous vehicles are going to usher in a revolution for transportation. They will change the way we commute, and change the way goods are transported. They will reduce on-road fatalities in motor vehicles, while also increasing the ethical concerns of transportation. It will be interesting.

For motorcyclists, it’s not clear what this all means. Motorcycles might become the two-wheeled escape from the autonomous grind, pushing our industry further into the “consumer discretionary income” realm and novelty. We should ask ourselves: is this a good thing?

It’s also just as easy to imagine a world where “unsafe” non-autonomous vehicles get outlawed, if for no other reason than the divergence they pose to the system.

Our one saving grace is that autonomous vehicle technology has to grow up in a world where it is several standard deviations outside of the norm. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, etc do not feed into the system that pilots a car like the Tesla Models S, shown in the video after the jump.

Instead, these vehicles have to evolve and grow-up in a world that doesn’t cater to them. That’s interesting too, but more so when you look at how a Tesla Model S perceives the environment around it – reading road signs, assessing objects in its path, understanding the markings of its environment.

It’s something to think about on your commute today.

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BMW Says That This Is the Future of Motorcycles

10/12/2016 @ 3:27 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

bmw-motorrad-vision-next-100-concept-02

Fresh as an MBA graduate, in the very early days of Asphalt & Rubber, I had an interview with a prominent Fortune 500 company that was well-known for its 100 year plan.

This was a topic of conversation during my job interview, as I found it intriguing that a company could even pretend to predict what the world will look like in 100 years.

To find the arrogance in this notion, imagine the trying to predict things like social media, cell phones, the internet, automobiles, commercial flying, and space travel…all at the turn of the 20th century.

With the rate of change we have seen in the past 100 years, apply that same trend to the next 100 years, and you will see how futile such a prediction can be. What don’t know what we don’t know, in this regard.

So, it’s with some amusement that we share with you today BMW Motorrad’s vision for motorcycling in the next 100 years.

The German brand calls its the BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100, and says that the concept “embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world – an analogue experience in a digital age.”

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Kawasaki Working on Artificial Intelligence for Motorcycles

08/31/2016 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

blade-runner-voight-kampff-machine

Motorcyclists often romanticize about their bikes, talking about a motorcycle’s personality, or lack thereof.

This is total bullshit by the way, but there is something to be said about the connection between man and machine, as it is the same emotional bond that makes one a devout believer of one brand, and detractor to another.

Usually we make these connections through something visceral, like the sound of an engine, the power going down the road, or the handling of the chassis. Rarely does one speak about a motorcycle’s personality in the same breath as its electronics, but that might change.

This is because Kawasaki is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) project that will see its motorcycles grow and evolve personalities to compliment its owners.

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The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

05/12/2016 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

motorcycle-integrated-action-camera-gopro

I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales.

So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain.

The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles, and other action sports.

There is a lot of business school “bullshit bingo” in that last statement, so let me break it down to you in human-speak.

Motorcycle brands need to realize how consumers are using their vehicles, and adapt to meet those needs directly. In this case, it means offering an integrated video recording solution with their motorcycles.

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The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

04/27/2016 @ 5:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

haptic-motorcycle-technology

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity.

Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so.

But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry. I am talking here about haptic feedback.

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Goodyear Eagle-360 Spherical Tire Concept Debuts

03/03/2016 @ 3:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

goodyear-eagle-360

Goodyear is touting its 117 years of tire-making experience at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, but it is the years ahead that are concerning the American tire brand right now.

Debuting its Eagle-360 spherical tire concept, Goodyear envisions a future where your current tires looks practically two-dimensional in their thinking, and where the contact patch that connects us to the roadway will evolve into a three-dimensional form.

The concept is likely little more than an attempt at grabbing headlines and pretending relevancy, as there is virtually no current demand from automanufacturers for a spherical tire solution.

That notion is compounded by Goodyear’s attempt to link the Eagle-360 to the rise of autonmous vehicles, as if the two things have anything to do with each other. Still, there is something intriguing here.

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April Fools: Honda Reveals Early Autonomous Motorcycle Design

04/01/2015 @ 8:29 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Honda-MotoBot

We have talked a great deal about autonomous vehicles here at Asphalt & Rubber, but usually the focus of that discussion has been about how autonomous four-wheel vehicles will interact with non-autonomous two-wheeled vehicles.

The time was sure to come though when a motorcycle OEM played with the idea of autonomous motorcycles, and that time is now.

Releasing early details about its autonomous motorcycle program, Honda Motor Corp. is staggeringly close to making the act of riding a motorcycle as simple as selecting a destination, and holding on tight.

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Vaporware: MV Agusta F3 USA Delivery Pushed Back…Again

06/07/2012 @ 12:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

I will be honest about my ego, I like being right…but that doesn’t mean that sometimes I wish I was wrong, and such is the case with the delivery date of the beautiful MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro. It is hard to believe that we first saw the MV Agusta F3 break cover back in October 2010, with the Italian company’s three-cylindered supersport being spied and rumored well before even that date, as far back as 2009. Then breaking the hearts of many Italian motorcycle fans, MV Agusta announced that the F3 would not be a 2011 model year bike.

Having issues getting its parts suppliers to deal with a company with a horrible credit record, pricing of the MV Agusta F3 quickly rose from $9,000, to $10,000, and then finally to $13,495 MSRP (Note: All US bikes will comes with a quick-shifter, pushing the MSRP now to $13,995). This of course would not be the price for the limited edition MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro, which was set to sell ahead of the base model. At $27,900 MSRP, the “gold series” F3 has been operating on a similar sliding scale as the price tag of the base model, as the delivery date of the bike was first pushed back from March, to May, and now is set for early July. But wait, there’s more.

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