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.

NHTSA Fines Triumph Motorcycles $2.9 Million

09/10/2015 @ 9:21 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has levied with Triumph Motorcycles with a $2.9 million civil penalty for violations of Safety Act reporting requirements and failure to fully respond to communications from NHTSA.

That sum includes a $1.4 million cash penalty that Triumph must pay to the NHTSA, as well as a $500,000 expenditure in order to meet a series of requirements to improve its safety practices. Triumph could have to pay an added $1 million in penalties should the company violate the consent order or if additional Safety Act violations emerge.

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MotoGP: 2016 Becomes Clearer as Brno Secures 5-Year Deal

08/16/2015 @ 9:59 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The future of the MotoGP round at Brno has finally been secured. The regional authorities have stepped in to secure funding for the Czech Grand Prix for the next five years, starting from 2016.

A deal has been struck with the Czech Ministry of Education and Sports, the City of Brno, and the Moravian regional government to ensure that the Czech round stays for the foreseeable future.

The round had been in doubt for some time, as haggling over finances between the circuit, the city council and the regional government saw the sanctioning fee go partially unpaid for the past several years.

The rights to the round have now been placed with a new and separate organization, run by the various regional and national governments involved, who will organize the round at the Brno circuit. With the financing in place, the race will continue for at least the next five years, and probably beyond.

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First Sketches of Norton’s 200hp 1,200cc V4 Superbike

08/10/2015 @ 10:42 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

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Norton Motorcycles recently got £4 million in grant funding from the UK government, funds that will go towards creating a new manufacturing facility, more jobs, and new models. All-in-all, it’s good news for the British marque and its suppliers, who will also benefit from the grant.

The good news for us though is that Norton plans to bring to market a 200hp V4-powered sport bike, not too dissimilar to the “SG” models that have been raced at the Isle of Man TT.

Adding to the good news is that British site Bike Social has gotten their hands on the sketches, and had a chance to talk to Norton’s Head of Design, Simon Skinner, about the new model and Norton’s future.

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California Lane-Splitting Stalls before Senate Vote

07/08/2015 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Just last May, California seemed set to be the first state in the USA to codify a lane-splitting law. That effort seems to have stalled though, with Assembly Bill 51 being pulled by the bill’s authors, after the California State Senate didn’t seem to have the same support for the law that the State Assembly had shown.

This action doesn’t change much for Californian motorcyclists, who can still legally lane-split through traffic, though they do so under the state’s more nebulous “safe and prudent” catch-all driving provision.

The news, however, is a huge blow for lane-splitting advocates in the rest of the country, who hoped that California’s codification of its lane-splitting practice could be a model law for the rest of the United States.

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MotoGP: Czech GP Ticket Sales Suspended

06/23/2015 @ 12:27 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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This year’s Brno round of MotoGP looks to be under severe threat. Ticket sales on the circuit’s official website for the event have been suspended as of this afternoon, after talks with Brno city council and the regional government broke down over funding of the race.

The message on the Brno circuit website reads:

With an immediate effect, Automotodrom Brno suspends the sale of tickets for the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 due to insufficient funding for the event.

The final decision on the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 will be published on 29 June. In case of cancellation of the event, all paid tickets will be refunded. 

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NASCAR Powerhouse Could Takeover Laguna Seca Ops

06/22/2015 @ 9:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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The operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could be set to change hands, as Monterey County officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the France family’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to takeover operations at the rack track.

ISC should be a familiar name to NASCAR fans, as the corporation not only built Daytona International Speedway, but the company’s primary business is owning and operating NASCAR race tracks (roughly half of the NASCAR season takes place on an ISC-owned track).

Owning 13 tracks in all, ISC could add another if its deal with Monterey County goes forward, supplanting the nonprofit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which has operated Laguna Seca since its inception in 1957.

According to a statement by Monterey County officials, the coastal Californian track “has been exploring options for the management of the raceway to ensure its long-term success.” ISC is therefore just one of several options on the table for the county, and its running of the historic racing venue.

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UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting to Be Safe

06/03/2015 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash.

The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.

This study will be important for shaping the conversation about lane-splitting, not only in California, but throughout the entire United States. It’s no coincidence then that California’s current attempt to codify lane-splitting mirrors these findings from UC Berkeley.

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California Close to Formalizing Legal Lane-Splitting, And What It Means for the Rest of the United States

05/29/2015 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code.

Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting.

Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

On the table now though is Assembly Bill 51, which would actually grant more privileges than what the CHP deemed reasonable, and could set the tone for a larger national push of lane-splitting.

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Oregon Kills Lane-Splitting Law in House Committee

05/25/2015 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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It’s bad news for Oregonian motorcyclists who were hoping to join the 21st century with the lane-filtering privileges that most of the world enjoys, as the Oregon House of Representatives has killed bill SB 694, in committee.

The bill, which had passed through the Senate Judiciary committee with an unanimous vote and the Oregon Senate with a two-thirds majority, was denied access to a general vote, by the bi-partisan Oregon House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.

SB 694 had faced strong opposition from the Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies because of perceived added danger to motorists if motorcycles were to filter through stopped traffic, and the opinions of the organizations carried weight with the House Committee, fueling its decision to kill the bill.

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MotoGP: Politics Put Brno Round Under Threat for 2015

05/21/2015 @ 10:39 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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The 2015 MotoGP round at Brno is still not certain to go ahead as a result of a battle for control of the race.

According to German-language website Speedweek, circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and South Moravian governor Michal Hasek have been arguing since August last year over who will organize the Czech round of MotoGP at the Masaryk circuit in Brno.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has given them an ultimatum, saying that if the situation is not resolved by the first week of June, the 2015 Brno MotoGP round will be canceled.

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