Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Harley-Davidson Takeover Rumors Spur Wall Street, Again

07/07/2016 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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If you believed the reports from the financial sector, Harley-Davidson is a prime candidate right now for a hostile takeover by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a global private equity firm.

The news sent shockwaves through Wall Street, with Harley-Davidson’s stock gaining 20% in value in a single day, as investors tried to capitalize on the news.

You are just hearing about this news on Asphalt & Rubber though for two reasons, 1) I’ve been on either a motorcycle, plane, trolley, or car for the past few days (just getting back from Italy), and 2) we have seen this all this before, and it wasn’t pretty.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

06/10/2016 @ 6:53 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors.

Details beyond this statement are lean however, though we can imagine that the news is in response to rival cruiser brand Victory Motorcycles continued push of its electric prowess with its Victory Empulse TT electric street bike, and its racing programs at the Isle of Man TT and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

This announcement is fairly superfluous, however. Lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.

The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 23 – Tourist Trophy

06/07/2016 @ 12:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Episode 23 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out for your audio pleasure, and it covers a range of topics that we think you will find interesting. First off, Quentin and Jensen cover the spectacle that is the Isle of Man TT, talking about this iconic road race, some of racers who compete in it, and what the TT needs to grow in the future.

This discussion then evolves into a conversation about flat track racing, which has already seen a bump in popularity, and seems to have additional momentum to grow in the coming years. This is of course aided by Harley-Davidson’s renewed interest in the sport, with the Bar & Shield brand releasing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R.

The guys then turn their attention to lane-splitting in the USA, a topic that is fueled by the recent news that California is looking to codify the practice, which is already legal permissible in the Golden State. That codification process has consequences for riders outside of California as well though, and the guys talk about those in the show.

Overall it’s a very informative look at three hot topics in motorcycling. We think you will find it both enlightening and entertaining.

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!

Harley-Davidson XG750R – The Bar & Shield’s Next-Gen Flat Tracker, For Racers Only

05/26/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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What you see here is the first purpose-built Harley-Davidson race bike to come from the Milwaukee for quite some time, as its been several decades since the Bar & Shield brand formally offered flat track racing machines – 44 years, to be precise.

Called the Harley-Davidson XG750R, the flat track racing machine is based off the Harley-Davidson Street 750 platform, and it will make its racing debut this weekend at the AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile in Illinois.

As the name suggests, the Harley-Davidson XG750R features the same 750cc v-twin engine that is found in the Harley-Davidson Street 750 street bike, though it has been tuned for racing duty.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 20 – Fans or Fanatics?

04/25/2016 @ 12:32 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Episode 20 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast builds off the previous episode, which covered in-depth the mythos that surrounds Erik Buell, Buell Motorcycles, and Erik Buell Racing. Exploring the differences between fans and fanatics, as they exist in the motorcycling realm, we move from Buell, to other manufacturers with cult followings, before finally landing on MotoGP.

Fresh from the MotoGP round in Austin, we talk about the rise of Rossi fans as a tyrannical force in Grand Prix racing, and how that has permeated through the paddock in various forms. Naturally, a few rabbit holes of side-discussion occur along the way, per usual.

Before all that though, we talk about the Motus Motorcycles project, as I rode the American-built MST and MSTR sport-tourers while in Texas. A very unique motorcycle, the true American machine is a good segue into the topic at hand. We think you will 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!

Two Enthusiasts Podcast – Episode 19 – Debunking Buell

04/08/2016 @ 8:00 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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First of all, apologies for how long it has taken us to get this episode of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast out to you. There are a few reasons why this particular show took so long to get out on the feed, but the biggest reason is that I have been slowly working through a massive backlog of stories. So, apologies for that.

That being said, Quentin and I are very stoked to bring you our third attempt at tackling the Buell/EBR story on the podcast. As such, Episode 19 covers Buell’s divestiture from Harley-Davidson, Erik Buell Racing’s launch from those ashes, and EBR’s very convoluted and complicated receivership process.

We also talk at great length about Quentin’s experience with the racing side of Buell and EBR, as well as my familiarity with EBR’s business operations and products. Whether your a fan of Erik Buell or not, we think you will find the show very interesting.

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!

The Precarious State of MV Agusta

03/23/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta as a motorcycle company has always seemed to have feet of clay, especially when its financial future is concerned. Today is no different, as MV Agusta has announced its intentions to restructure its debt, in order to keep the company afloat.

Afloat is an interesting phrase, as the storied Italian brand has changed hands four times in the past 12 years, with two of those purchase prices being a token euro, as MV Agusta’s liabilities far outstripped the company’s assets and holdings.

Fast-forward in time and it would be easy to say that not much has changed, as MV Agusta now has €40 million in liabilities on its balance sheet, all non-essential staff have been furloughed, the production lines in Varese recently have been motionless.

While this seems like more of the same from MV Agusta, the situation is far more complex, and for once in its lifetime, it isn’t MV Agusta’s lack of sales that are to blame. In fact, it’s the opposite, as it is MV Agusta’s success in growing its motorcycles that is the cause of its current financial situation.

That might seem like a counterintuitive notion, but if you understand the relationships between chickens, eggs, and which came first, then you will understand the situation at hand here with MV Agusta.

And while this impasse isn’t a new one in the business world, it doesn’t change the fact that the future of MV Agusta is in a precarious state.

Recall: Harley-Davidson Street 750 & 500

08/25/2015 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Another recall this week, this time affecting the 2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750 (manufactured May 12, 2014, to June 24, 2015) & Street 500 (manufactured January 20, 2014, to June 24, 2015) motorcycles.

According to the information provided to the NHTSA, 10,580 motorcycles have a faulty fuel pump, which has a poor seal at the fuel pump inlet.

Harley-Davidson Recalls 185,000+ Bikes for…Saddlebags

07/27/2015 @ 9:42 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson has another massive recall on its hands, as the Bar & Shield has a bevy of models who are affect by saddlebag mountis that may not adequately secure the saddlebags to the motorcycle.

The recall affects certain model year 2014-2015 Road King (FLHR), Street Glide (FLHX), Street Glide Special (FLHXS), Electra Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU), Ultra Limited (FLHTK), Police Road King (FLHP), Police Electra Glide (FLHTP), CVO Ultra Limited (FLHTKSE), 2014 CVO Road King (FLHRSE), and 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low (FLHTCUL), Ultra Limited Low (FLHTKL), Road Glide (FLTRX), Road Glide Special (FLTRXS), CVO Street Glide (FLHXSE), and CVO Road Glide Ultra (FLTRUSE) motorcycles.

Say that three times fast.