Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

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.

Harley-Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100

03/18/2013 @ 3:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100 harley davidson interbrand 100

Something we missed when it was published, Harley-Davidson has remained on the 2012 Interbrand 100, and even made a 10% gain in value according to Interbrand’s brand valuation. The 76th most valuable brand worldwide in 2009, Harley-Davidson fell to 98th on the list in 2010, and threatened to fall off this list in 2011 when it was ranked as the 100th most valuable brand.

For 2012 however, Harley-Davidson’s brand value seems to mimic its unit sales, finding its rock-bottom value and then making some gains with the slowly recovering economy. After getting a 10% boost in brand value over its 2011 figure, Harley-Davidson ranks 96th amongst the world’s most valuable brands — a far cry from its position several years ago, but a step in the right direction for the venerable motorcycle brand.

Watch the Bottpower BOTT XR1 Hit the Track

03/04/2013 @ 9:35 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Watch the Bottpower BOTT XR1 Hit the Track Bottpower BOTT XR 1 635x425

Now finished with its BOTT XR1 project, Spanish design and engineering house Bottpower has taken its American-powered street-tracker to Albaida, Spain for a little track time. A custom one-off build for a client, Bottpower has created the machine that Harley-Davidson should have envisioned with the Buell brand.

The BOTT XR1 looks genuinely fun to ride, and is more than eye-catching to our critical eye for design. We hope Bottpower’s plans for a do-it-yourself kit come to fruition, as we could use more of these beasts on the street.

Harley-Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012

01/30/2013 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Posts 6% Sales Growth in 2012 Harley Davidson 635x423

Helped by a strong fourth quarter, Harley-Davidson is reporting signs of growth for 2012, with the company’s global sales again up 6.2% over the figures from last year. With sales up 6.6% in the United States, and 5.6% abroad, Harley-Davidson sold 249,849 motorcycles in 2012, and those sales figures translated onto the balance sheet into a 6% growth in revenue ($4.9 billion) and a 4% increase in net income ($623 million).

“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees, dealers and suppliers, Harley-Davidson achieved its growth and restructuring goals in 2012,” said CEO Keith Wandell. “The ambitious restructuring of our manufacturing operations, aimed at delivering better responsiveness for customers and greater operating efficiency, is now largely behind us.”

Harley-Davidson Made-for-India Model by 2014?

12/18/2012 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Made for India Model by 2014? harley davidson india paint 635x450

According to the folks at Indian auto site Zigwheels, Harley-Davidson is finally ready to get serious about the Indian market, and plans on developing and selling a made-for-India model. The entry-level machine would slot in below the current 883cc Sportsters, and be ground-up manufactured locally in India as well.

Zigwheels goes on to say that its sources peg Harley-Davidson executives from the US and India as meeting with Indian vendors and dealers in order to setup distribution of the new model(s). Expected to debut at the 2014 New Delhi show, the India-specific line will arrive in the 400cc-500cc range, feature a v-twin motor, and cost Rs 3.5 lakh ($6,381).

Hey Hipsters, Harley-Davidson is Calling You

11/19/2012 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Hey Hipsters, Harley Davidson is Calling You hipster trap 635x423

Slap on your skinny jeans, and get on a hog, because Harley-Davidson is pitching motorcycles to America’s favorite disgruntled demographic: the hipster. For pursuing today’s young and ironically image-oriented subculture, you can’t really fault a company like Harley-Davidson for this move, seeing as it markets its brand around this notion of conformity through non-conformity.

Copying the vintage art house film style of that we see so often on Vimeo (frame borders, sepia tones, and all), I will steal a line from AutoBlog‘s Jonathon Ramsey and say that Harley-Davidson has nailed the Instagram style on its head with this one…right down to its guitar-string audio track and percolating coffee pot cameo appearance.

Recall: Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special

10/26/2012 @ 8:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Recall: Harley Davidson Night Rod Special Harley Davidson VRSCDX Night Rod Special 635x423

Harley-Davidson is recalling 2,798 units of its 2012-2013 Harley-Davidson VRSCDX Night Rod Special motorcycles because of a loose license plate bracket. If the license plate bracket becomes loose, it could twist and interfere with the rear tire, or even slice the rear brake line, which could result in brake failure.

Harley-Davidson Museum Opens Exhibit for Japanese Tsunami Motorcycle

10/25/2012 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Museum Opens Exhibit for Japanese Tsunami Motorcycle harley davidson tsunami motorcycle museum 635x423

Thousands of miles from its home in Japan, a Harley-Davidson FXSTB Softail Night Train was found washed up along the coast in British Columbia. Earlier this year, the motorcycle had floated all the way across the Pacific Ocean in a container that had once been part of a box truck.

The truck had broken apart after it had been washed out to sea during the tsunami that followed the Tōhoku earthquake, and the arrival of the Harley-Davidson, along with countless other pieces of debris, was a stark reminder to the devastation that had occurred along the Japanese coast just a year prior, in 2011.

Bearing a license plate from the Miyagi Prefecture in Japan, many feared that the motorcycle’s owner had perished in the earthquake or tidal wave, and that the Harley-Davidson would serve as yet another story of loss from the tragic event.

However, through the works of numerous parties, including Harley-Davidson and the Japanese consulate in Canada, the bike was identified as belonging to Ikuo Yokoyama. Found to be living in temporary housing in the Miyagi Prefecture, Yokoyama-san seemed set to be reunited with his Harley-Davidson, until something unexpected happened — the Japanese man refused to have the motorcycle returned to him.

Harley-Davidson Has Pope Bless Fuel Tanks – No, Seriously

10/03/2012 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Has Pope Bless Fuel Tanks   No, Seriously Pope Benedict XVI Harley Davidson fuel tank blessing 635x422

Harley-Davidson is in Italy this week, gearing up for the company’s 110th Anniversary event that’s being held in Rome in June 2013. Apparently part of the pre-party planning involved having Pope Benedict XVI bless two fuel tanks today, with brand ambassador Willie G. Davidson present. This is of course a practice run for the full-bike blessing that will take place next year in St. Peter’s square.

We were going to write a tongue-in-cheek article about how we have never seen a company get as excited about a 110th anniversary celebration (though, there should be some sort of record for making the same motorcycle for that long of a time period), and maybe lace it with some choice idealogical wordplay, but honestly the press release from Harley-Davidson provides ample fodder for the cynics without our help. And here we thought the Pope was more of a Ducati guy

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

No Sub 800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley Davidson Doesnt Understand Emerging Markets Harley Davidson board racer

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Harley-Davidson Swept Away During Japanese Tsunami is Headed to H-D Museum After Owner Refuses Its Return

05/26/2012 @ 5:47 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Swept Away During Japanese Tsunami is Headed to H D Museum After Owner Refuses Its Return Harley Davidson tsunami japan 635x490

It has been a month since we first reported about the Harley-Davidson motorcycle that washed up on Canadian soil, which was the first major piece of debris to hit North American soil from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Remarkable in its own right, the American-made motorcycle was being stored in the back of box truck before the earthquake, and during the tsunami, the box separated from the vehicle and ended up floating across the Pacific Ocean over the past year.

Landing on Graham Island of British Columbia, the Harley has been a reminder of the devastation and power of the Japanese disaster, and immediately a search was conducted to find the bike’s owner, if he was still alive. Using the VIN and license plate, which were still readable on the motorcycle, Ikuo Yokoyama was ultimately identified as the owner of the Harley-Davidson Softail Night Train, and efforts were put in place to put the motorcyclist back in possession of his Harley-Davidson, which is where this story gets interesting.