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.

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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #28 – Getting Cranky

08/15/2016 @ 7:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Episode 28 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts with some recent news: the closure of Skully and the near-passage of California’s lane-splitting law.

The conversation about Skully quickly moves from the failed startup, to a broader conversation about helmet design and the progress of technology in this space. The show then turns to California’s lane-splitting law, and what it could mean for motorcyclists in states other than California.

Once the news items are out of the way, the show spends a bit of time talking about crankshaft design, namely what it means to have a “crossplane” crankshaft.

Further down the rabbit hole, this turns into a larger conversation about how engines make their power, and how that power is tuned for specific tasks. It’s a tough subject to do only via voice, but we think you’ll enjoy it.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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California One Signature Away from Codifying Lane-Splitting

08/05/2016 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

There is good news for those following California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), which would formally codify lane-splitting as legal under the California Vehicle Code and empower state agencies to develop safety guidelines for its practice.

That news is that the California State Assembly yesterday concurred with the California State Senate on the most recent wording of AB 51 (AB 51 had been changed by the State Senate, dropping the provisions about maximum speed and traffic speed deltas for when lane-splitting was permitted).

The State Assembly’s vote yesterday was needed in order to create a concurrence on the same language of the bill between the two legislative bodies. With the Assembly’s unanimous vote, AB 51 now goes to California Governor Jerry Brown for his signature, the last step before making lane-splitting a law.

Gov. Brown is expected to sign AB 51, especially since both the State Assembly and State Senate had unanimously passed the codification of lane-splitting.

California is now just a single signature away from being the first state in the United States of America that expressly allows lane-splitting for motorcyclists. Booyah!

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Is the Presidential Election Hurting Harley-Davidson’s Sales?

08/03/2016 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

harley-davidson-shut-and-ride

No matter your political leanings, you cannot deny that the upcoming presidential election is grabbing a lot of headlines, and dominating our social discourse – and that is perhaps the way it should be, as electing the leader of the free world is no trivial matter.

Whoever leads the United States of America after January 20th will have a dramatic affect, not only on the American public sector, but also on the American private sector. The daily business and life of America are intrinsically linked to this country’s politics.

It is therefore not that uncommon to hear of American business leaders voicing their opinions, and endorsing political candidates for office – sometimes they themselves even run for office – so, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised to hear that Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich weighed in on the 2016 election cycle.

It is a bit surprising to hear what he has to say though…

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California’s Lane-Splitting Bill Passes State Senate

08/02/2016 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

California just got another step closer to formalizing the practice of lane-splitting in the Golden State, as AB 51 just passed the California State Senate.

The bill will now go back to the California State Assembly, which will need to approve of the amendments made by the Senate, but that should be a formality for the legislative body.

This means that California is now just a couple procedural movements away from codifying lane-splitting into its vehicle code. For many lane-splitting advocates, this marks a decisive victory. Though, we’ve had some reservations.

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What Brexit Really Means for the Motorcycle Industry

06/24/2016 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.

But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.

If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.

There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.

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Australia Considers TT-Style Road Race near Sunshine Coast

06/20/2016 @ 10:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

sunshine-coast-international-tt-course-proposal-june-2016

It seems appropriate that just a week after the Isle of Man TT, we should be talking about efforts in Australia to host a similar event.

Dubbed the Sunshine Coast International TT (SCTT), the 29.2-mile race would center off of Australia’s Sunshine coast, near Brisbane, and could potentially bring in $8.5 million to the local economy.

The Sunshine Coast is already a popular destination for motorcyclists, among other types of tourists who flock to the area’s beaches and other topography.

While we have seen other proposals interested in taking the Isle of Man TT formula abroad, some at the whim of the Isle of Man government, the SCTT seems to have some legs, with two public hearings on the subject already held with locals and interested outsiders.

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California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

06/15/2016 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote.

This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor.

For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting.

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California Making Moves to Codify Lane-Splitting

05/31/2016 @ 6:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

california-lane-splitting-bear

Riding a motorcycle in California is pure bliss. Motorcyclists benefit from the state’s perpetual sunshine, its gold-kissed coasts, and of course lane-splitting for two-wheelers. Lane-splitting in California, from a legal stand-point, is sort of awkward though.

There is no law that grants motorcyclists the privilege of lane-splitting, but that doesn’t really matter when it comes to the California Vehicle Code (CVC), since there is also no provision that prohibits it.

I wouldn’t say lane-splitting in California is legal only by a technicality, but the Golden State would benefit from some more formalized words on the practice, beyond the CVC’s default that all motorists should operate their vehicles in a “safe and prudent” manner.

That might change this year though, as Assembly Bill 51 (last year’s attempt to codify reasonable lane-splitting rules) is getting an update. This is both good and bad news.

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EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

04/18/2016 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

motorcycle-race-exhaust

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events.

The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts.

Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

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MotoGP: Circuit of Wales Under Threat as Welsh Government Refuses to Underwrite Project

04/07/2016 @ 7:51 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

flag-of-wales

The Circuit of Wales was dealt a significant setback on Wednesday, after the Welsh Economy Minister refused to offer a 100% guarantee for the £357 million development project.

Without the guarantee, the future of the project is now uncertain, with doubts over the willingness of Aviva, a British insurance company, to continue with backing for the project.

After a long period of preparation, which included a Public Enquiry on the transfer of public lands, work was set to start on the circuit, set just outside Ebbw Vale in South Wales. Work had already started to get the site of the circuit ready to start construction.

The final piece of the puzzle had been secured several weeks ago, in the form of financial backing from Aviva. However, the Heads of The Valley Development Company had asked the Welsh Government to underwrite 100% of the investment in the project, with reports in the regional newspaper South Wales Argus suggesting that such demands had come from Aviva.

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