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.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #30 – The Need for Speed

08/30/2016 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 30 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees us discussing three different powertrains, the motorcycles that they power.

First up is Harley-Davidson’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine, which will power its Big Twin touring models for the 2017 model year. We then turn our attention to Ducati (no surprise there), and discuss the seeming return of the air-cooled Ducati Monster, which was spied last week.

We finish the show with a lengthy debrief on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, as Quentin and I had previously spent a day riding this electric dirt bike in the mountains near Portland, Oregon.

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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The New Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engine Debuts

08/25/2016 @ 1:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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What you are looking at above is Harley-Davidson’s ninth iteration of its “Big Twin” engines. It’s called the Milwaukee-Eight, named after Harley-Davidson’s home town and the fact that the engine head design employs a very modern eight valves in total (four per cylinder head).

Time will tell if the Milwaukee-Eight becomes as iconic as Harley-Davidson’s other designs, like the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead, etc. But, we do know that the Milwaukee-Eight marks a more modern approach to engine design from the Bar & Shield brand.

To this end, Harley-Davidson says that the new power plant offers a quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound (whatever that means), and a smoother ride (read: less vibrations).

The Milwaukee-Eight will first be used on Harley-Davidson’s touring and trike lines, though we can expect the engine design to permeate through Harley-Davidson’s lineup.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

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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EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

08/18/2016 @ 4:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler102 COMMENTS

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices.

Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. Boom goes the dynamite.

While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Compounding the issue though, Harley-Davidson has sold an amazing number of these tuners. Accordingly the EPA and DOJ came down on the Bar & Shield brand like a box of bricks, but the likely costs to take the boxes off the market will make the fines pale in comparison.

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

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

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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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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #26 – Return of the Kickstands

08/03/2016 @ 1:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Episode 26 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out for your listening pleasure. To make up for a lack of shows the past few weeks, this episode is a two-part recap of the Jensen’s adventures in Italy, California, and North Carolina. As such, keep an eye out for Episode 27, which will be out later this week, to give you something extra to listen to over the weekend.

In the meantime, we are going to Tarantino the order of events, and talk first about Jensen’s most recent trip, the press launch for the Yamaha FZ-10 street bike, which he rode at The Tail of the Dragon.

The show starts with some current headlines though, talking first about MotoGP’s decision to ban winglets, Harley-Davidson’s rumored hostile takeover by a private equity firm, and Honda’s decision to abandon support of the supersport street segment.

Naturally, the guys find some rabbit holes to crawl down, along the way, which includes a discussion on the role of prototype racing, the oddity that is the “cripple triple” racing motorcycle, and the realities of a tiered licensing systems.

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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Harley-Davidson Q2 2016 Sales Down 1.9%

07/28/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson released its second quarter sales results today, showing the Bar & Shield brand taking a dip in sales in Q2 2016.

According to its report, Harley-Davidson sales are down 1.9% worldwide, a figure that is due mostly to the company’s performance on its home turf in the USA, which are down 5.2% when compared to Q2 2015.

In fact, Harley-Davidson sales abroad saw a modest gain of 4.3%, but since the iconic American brand still sells roughly two-thirds of its units here in the United States, the sales trends here steer the company’s fate heavily.

To that tune, Harley-Davidson notes that the US motorcycle industry as a whole is down 8.6% in Q2 2016 – a fair point to make, but it is also skewed by the fact that Harley-Davidson accounts for one-in-two of every new motorcycle sold in the USA.

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It’s Time Again for Harley-Davidson’s Yearly Clutch Recall

07/27/2016 @ 7:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson-Street-Glide-Special

Call it a hat trick, because today marks three years in a row (2014 & 2015 here) where Harley-Davidson has had to recall a large swath of its model lineup for issues with their clutch actuation.

For 2016, 14 Harley-Davidson models are facing a recall because their clutches may not disengage when the clutch lever is pulled by the rider.

The recall affects 27,232 units in total – more specifically the 2016 Electric Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU), Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low (FLHTCUL), Ultra Limited Low (FLHTKL), Ultra Limited (FLHTK), CVO Street Glide (FLHXSE), Street Glide (FLHX), Street Glide Special (FLHXS), Road Glide Special (FLTRXS), Road Glide (FLTRX), Police Electra Glide (FLHTP), Road Glide Ultra (FLTRU), Fat Boy S (FLSTFBS), Softail Slim S (FLSS), and CVO Softail Pro Street Breakout (FXSE) motorcycles.

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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.

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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.

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