Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Mission Motorcycles Becomes Mission Electric, Boats & Cars to Come, Mission R/RS Motos Delayed Until Q2/Q3 2015

Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces. Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM. It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

2015 Husqvarna FS 450 – Husky Returns to Supermoto

Announcing the 2015 Husqvarna FS 450, the Swedish brand is making a return to the supermoto segment, thanks to its new Austrian owners. Based on the Husqvarna FC 450 motocross bike, the new supermoto model is of course a reworked KTM in disguise, though we doubt anyone will be too bothered by that fact. The Husqvarna FS 450 features a chromium molybdenum frame, three-piece injection-molded subframe, and cast aluminium swing arm for the chassis. Umpf comes from the 450cc SOHC thumper, which makes a cool 60hp and has a five-speed gearbox mated to it. An electric starter and Adler slipper clutch complete the engine package.

2015 Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS Gets More Power

It’s hard to fault the current Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS, except perhaps the sport bike’s alphabet soup name, which the Italian company seems to grow longer with each passing year and added feature. That being said, the Tuono V4 R is easily our pick for the best streetfighter on the market — it packs a punch with its V4 engine, has the industry’s best electronics package, and is just downright fun to ride. Noale, Italy isn’t resting on those laurels though, so accordingly the 2015 Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS is getting some minor updates: namely a bump in peak power (170hp) and torque (83.3 ft•lbs), thanks to a new exhaust system.

Iron Lung by Icon 1000

12/10/2013 @ 12:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Iron Lung by Icon 1000 icon 1000 iron lung 07 635x423

Oregon’s favorite motorcycle apparel brand has a custom motorcycle build for the holidays, the Icon 1000 “Iron Lung” Sportster. An homage to the bikes that Harley-Davidson used to build in the 1970′s, you know when the Bar & Shield brand did real racing, and was fairly good at it too.

Based around a 1991 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 engine, the Iron Lung sees its lump bored out to 1,200cc, with a Supertrapp exhaust helping things breathe a bit better as well. The front-end has been lowered and widened with wide-glide forks and custom triple clamp. Similarly, the rear features a custom subframe with Progressive 970 shocks.

To make Iron Lung work visually, Icon widened the fairings, which gives the machine a bulldog like stance: low and wide. Fitted with the company’s own variety of Portlandian hipster chic, the Iron Lung sports paint by Garage 31 and a custom seat by New Church Moto — two local outfits in Portland, Oregon.

The design isn’t really our usual fare here at Asphalt & Rubber, but you have to appreciate the honesty in Icon’s retelling of the Iron Lung’s performance assessment:

“Once completed, we headed down to an oval in Southern Oregon and kicked ‘er in the guts to be featured along side of our Spring 2014 ICON 1000 apparel collection – coming soon. Her handling was as questionable as the grandstand snacks, but she bore the brunt of torture with aplomb. It wouldn’t be an ICON 1000 bike without a true trial by fire. In Iron Lung’s case this was literal as she burst into flame after her initial shakedown run just a few weeks prior.”

We find that worryingly appealing. Party on boys and girls.

Harley-Davidson Issues Clutch Recalls for 2014 Bikes

12/09/2013 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Issues Clutch Recalls for 2014 Bikes Harley Davidson CVO Breakout FXSBSE 635x423

Harley-Davidson is recalling many of its 2014 models for issues with their clutch systems. Issuing two recalls, the first one affects the FLHRSE, FLHTCU, FLHTK, FLHTKSE, FLHTP, FLHX, and FLHXS models, and centers around the clutch master cylinder possibly allowing air into the clutch system.

Harley-Davidson says that these motorcycles may also have been assembled with an incorrect clutch release plate. Either condition could cause the clutch not to disengage.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 & Street 750 – The First Truly “New” Motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 13 Years

11/04/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Street 500 & Street 750   The First Truly New Motorcycles from Harley Davidson in 13 Years harley davidson street 500 750

News of “smaller-displacement” Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been percolating for quite some time now, especially after the Bar & Shield brand began taking emerging markets more seriously.

With countries like India viewing 500cc bikes as “big” and Harley-Davidson’s smallest offering tipping the scales at 883cc, something had to give in the company’s strategy, and it looks like it just did.

Announcing two new bikes, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Harley-Davidson Street 750, the Milwaukee brand is finally ready to go abroad, and its launching its intent to do so this week in Milan, at the EICMA show.

Harley-Davidson Q3 Sales Up 20% in the US, 15% Abroad

10/30/2013 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Q3 Sales Up 20% in the US, 15% Abroad Harley Davidson FLHTK 635x423

Signs of life are finally coming back to the motorcycle industry, as Harley-Davidson has shown strong gains in the third fiscal quarter of 2013. Posting an increase in sales of 15.5% worldwide, Harley-Davidson grew 20.1% in the United States the last three months, due mainly to its “Project Rushmore” line of water-cooled motorcycles.

“Rider response to the 2014 motorcycles we introduced August 18 was extremely positive. In fact, initial retail sales of the new Project Rushmore motorcycles sparked the largest year-over-year new model year sales increase in two decades,” explained Harley-Davdison CEO Keith Wandell in the company’s investor communique.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enters the Motorcycle Rental Business

10/30/2013 @ 3:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Enterprise Rent A Car Enters the Motorcycle Rental Business enterprise rent a car 635x423

I’m actually surprised it has taken this long for a national player to enter into the motorcycle rental business, but this week Enterprise Rent-A-Car announced that it was launching its own motorcycle rental business, Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise.

For now, the business is limited to one location in Las Vegas, and Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise offers only a small selection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Presumably if the Las Vegas experiment is a success, Enterprise could expand the concept to other locations.

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

09/03/2013 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Confirms 500cc Model   Electrics Too? harley davidson american legend 635x423

Two years ago I lamented on the fact that Harley-Davidson didn’t have a model under 800cc, which among other things, left the company at odds with its efforts to push into the emerging Indian motorcycle market.

Six-months after I wrote that piece, there seemed to be some hope for the Bar & Shield brand, as rumors began to circulate about a 500cc class motorcycle that was being designed with emerging countries in mind. It would seem now, those rumors were true.

Confirming that Harley-Davidson would soon debut a 500cc class motorcycle for the Indian market, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich revealed last weekend that the Milwaukee-based company had a 500cc model in an advanced stage of development.

Hinting strongly that the machine would be built in India, and be aimed specifically at that market, Levatich also hedged his bets on the possibility of the model arriving on US soil.

Harley-Davidson Debuts Liquid-Cooled Engines for Tourers

08/21/2013 @ 3:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Debuts Liquid Cooled Engines for Tourers 14 FLHTCU LOC5 635x422

Harley-Davidson has debuted its 2014 touring and trike motorcycles, which would normally be an event that we’d forgo even mentioning here at Asphalt & Rubber, after all “brand new” to Harley typically means new paint and chrome pieces to bikes that already exist in the line-up — that’s not entirely the case this year though.

Rolling out eight “new” motorcycles for enthusiasts, Harley-Davidson has listened to customer feedback and made changes to the following models in its line-up: Road King, Street Glide, Street Glide Special, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Tri Glide Ultra, CVO Ultra Limited, and CVO Road King. Nothing crazy there, right?

However what was called “Project Rushmore” inside the motorcycle company, we now know refers to the company’s effort to bring more technology to its two-wheeled midlife crisis machines… the most drastic change being a liquid-cooled engine design. We’ve got your attention now, don’t we?

Debuting two liquid-cooling engine configurations, the Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 motor will be used on the 2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited and the Tri-Glide Ultra trike, while the Screamin’ Eagle Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 will be featured on the 2014 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited.

Video: Indian Motorcycle – The Spirit of Munro

07/09/2013 @ 5:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Video: Indian Motorcycle   The Spirit of Munro indian thunder stroke 111 burt munro tribute bonneville 635x357

Indian’s war machine continues to gain momentum, and the challenger to Harley-Davidson’s throne continues to impress. A new video comes our way, this time building on the heritage of the American brand through Burt Munro. One of just many stories around the historic marques, it probably helps that Burt Munro’s name was vaulted into the public consciousness by Hollywood’s The World’s Fastest Indian.

Building an all-metal tribute to Munro’s streamliner, we can find a few flaws that gnaw away at us as we watch this otherwise perfect video campaign (salt veterans know what we’re talking about). Still, Indian is bringing a good fight to Harley-Davidson’s doorstop with marketing promos like these. If you are in the legacy cruiser market, you might have a tougher decisions to make than usual when picking a favorite ride.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs

03/26/2013 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs motorcycle repair price list 635x476

In its May issue, Consumer Reports dives into the topic of motorcycle reliability, and confirms what many of us already knew: bikes from BMW and Harley-Davidson were reported to be less reliable than those from the Japanese OEMs.

Interestingly enough however, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were also far more likely to make a repeat-purchase with their chosen brand than were owners of Japanese motorcycles, sans those of Hondas, which scored just slightly lower than BMW and Harley-Davidson on customer retention.

Looking at customer complaints of “major” mechanical problems from the last four years, the report from over 4,000 motorcycle owners confirms the high-water mark set by the Japanese OEMs on motorcycle reliability, but also shows the power of good branding as it translates into brand loyalty and customer retention.

While Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha may be winning the minds of riders with their production prowess, they are losing the hearts of consumers, which is interesting since any salesman will tell you it is easier to keep a current customer, than to make a new one.