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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

India’s Struggle to Sell Millions of Vehicles Before Tougher Emissions Law Comes into Effect

04/13/2017 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

If you think emission regulations in the United States or Europe are onerous, then you should see the hash of things that is being played out in India right now, as hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been sitting on showroom floors, flirting with disaster at the possibility of being declared unsellable in the country.

The exact figure varies from which source you believe (and their understanding that “lakh” means 100,000 in Indian parlance), so the affected number of vehicles ranges from 700,000 to 1.4 million units – most of which are trucks and two-wheelers.

As such, just days before the deadline 600,000 motorcycles soon-to-be non-compliant motorcycles were believed to be still unsold, the result of an interesting intersection of a rapidly changing environmental landscape, an unforgiving legal system, and a slowly reacting vehicle industry.

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US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

04/05/2017 @ 10:06 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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.

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What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

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Washington Lane-Splitting Bill Passes State Senate

03/01/2017 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Legalizing lane-splitting in Washington State just got a step closer to reality, as the State Senate of the Washington State Legislature has passed a bill that would allow lane-splitting under very specific circumstances.  

Senate Bill 5378 (SB 5378) would allow lane-splitting only during slow traffic conditions – up to 10mph faster than the flow of traffic, but no faster than 25 mph – and only on numbered highways that have a median and multiple lanes of traffic in each direction.

The bill passed the senate with 32 “yea” votes from both Republicans and Democrats, while the 17 “nay” votes came solely from Democrat members.

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US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

02/06/2017 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler50 COMMENTS

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.

Sent to Congress just last Friday, the text to H.R. 861 has not been published yet by the Government Publishing Office (the service usually takes a day or two), so details are light at this point in time on the bill’s fine-strokes.

However the writer of the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), has been clear in his statements to media outlets and on Twitter that the EPA is a burden on companies; individual states would be better at handling environmental issues than the federal government; and that abolishing the EPA would create more jobs.

H.R. 861 is co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R – Kentucky), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R – Mississippi), and Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R – Georgia) – all three co-sponsors have voiced notable opposition to the EPA in the past, and this bill comes at a time when the EPA is already slated to get a massive budget reduction by the Trump administration.

General politics aside, 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.

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Trump Cancels Harley-Davidson Visit for Fear of Protests

02/01/2017 @ 12:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

President Trump was scheduled to visit Harley-Davidson tomorrow, but those plans have since been scrapped because of Harley-Davidson’s worry about protests at the event.

Trump’s trip was supposed to include a tour of Harley-Davidson’s Menomonee Falls factory, where he would then sign several executive orders that relate to manufacturing in the United States.

With protests continuing over President Trump’s taking office, and the subsequent executive orders and personnel changes he has made to the government, reports are swirling that Harley-Davidson has backed away from hosting the 45th president. 

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OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

01/27/2017 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle.

These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years.

Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA. 

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Oregon Eyes Lane-Splitting Law, Again

01/23/2017 @ 7:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Oregon once again is trying to join the 21st century when it comes to pragmatic transportation laws, and as such State Senator Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) has re-introduced a lane-splitting law to the Oregon legislature, with the hopes that it will get voted on later this year.

That might be a tall order to ask from the Oregon legislature though, since the proposed lane-splitting law is no different from the one that Oregon shot down back in 2015

Both proposals aimed to make lane-splitting legal under very stringent conditions: only on roads where the posted speed limit is 50mph or more, only when traffic is traveling 10mph or slower, and only at a rate of no more than 20mph.

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Why the USA Might Tax European Motorcycles Over Beef

01/17/2017 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler57 COMMENTS

What do chickens have to do with potatoes? For that matter, what do chickens have to do with steel? And what do both of those things have to do with tires?

The answer isn’t as obvious as you may think, and this week everyone in the motorcycle industry is asking themselves what European motorcycles have to do with beef exports.

The answer to all these questions is the same though, and it involves the rather unsophisticated motorcycle industry being dragged into the rather complex world of international trade negotiation. Let me explain.

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Federal Tax Credits for Electric Motorcycles Set to Expire

12/28/2016 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

If you are in the market for an electric motorcycle (or any road-legal electric vehicle, for that matter), you have only a few more days to take advantage of the federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of these machines.

For potential electric motorcycle buyers, that means the 10% federal savings (some states offer their own incentives as well) will only be available for purchases made for the remaining four days of 2016.

Once January 1st, 2017 rolls up on the calendar, electric motorcycles will cost their full freight. How this will affect the space though, remains to be seen.

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