Hero Acquires Unfinished R&D from Erik Buell Racing

Hero MotoCorp Ltd (HMCL) has filed paperwork with the Bombay Stock Exchange stating that its wholly-owned subsidiary, HMCL Americas, has entered into a settlement agreement with Erik Buell Racing, which sees the American arm of the Indian brand acquire “certain consulting project” from EBR for $2.8 million. The filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange reads: “”As part of the settlement agreement, HMCL Americas Inc has agreed to acquire the ownership of certain tangible and intangible assets of EBR Entities, free and clear of all encumbrances, for a consideration of USD 2.8 million.” The move is not surprising, since the projects and research in question are unfinished consulting work Erik Buell Racing was doing for Hero MotoCorp as a client.

These Are Not the Eagerly Awaited Suzuki GSX-R250 & All-New GSX-R1000…But They Should Be

These images are very likely not of the hopefully-soon-to-be-released Suzuki GSX-R250 & GSX-R1000 sport bikes, as their purveyor, Japanese magazine Young Machine, has a fairly horrible track record with these sort of things…but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore them. After all, here we see two very attractive offerings, which we hope the folks at Hamamatsu will take a long look at, as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 rendered here would be an attractive update to a name that was once the superbike to beat.

2015 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

In Japan, the Suzuka 8-Hour is a huge deal, but for the rest of the world, it ranks on par with the rest of the FIM Endurance World Championship. That’s kind of a shame, really, as the Endurance World Championship is the only motorcycle championship where we still see different tire manufacturers competing against each other, the bikes are beautifully technical in their own special way, and in the case of Suzuka, there are often heavy-hitters at play. This year was no different, with Yamaha fielding its “Yamaha Factory Racing Team” with two MotoGP stars, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, along with factory test rider and MotoGP podium-finisher Katsuaki Nakasuga.

Recall: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Attention 2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R owner, KTM North America is recalling 640 units of “The Beast” for a fuel leak that may occur from the threaded inserts at the rear of the gas tank. Obviously, a fuel tank poses a safety hazard to the rider, not only for its propensity to combust, but its ability to degrade traction to the rear tire. As such, KTM will notify affected owners, and KTM dealers will seal the threaded inserts to prevent future fuel leaks. If the motorcycle shows evidence of an existing fuel leak at the threaded insert, the gas tank will be replaced. Of course, these repairs will be performed free of charge. The recall on the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is expected to begin in August 2015.

Erik Buell Racing Acquired by the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Social media and some assorted motorcycle news websites (first here, and now here) are feverishly reporting that Erik Buell Racing has been out-right acquired by Hero MotoCorp, during the company’s receivership auction, thus confirming the wet-dream conspiracy theories of Buellistas around the world. The report was first started by the stalwart news source Motorcycle.in.th, and was then elevated quickly into the realm of semi-truthfulness by a bevy of other news outlets. With the journalistic bar now set so low, Asphalt & Rubber feels comfortable reporting that there is indeed a new owner for Erik Buell Racing, but it is not Hero MotoCorp, but instead the Flying Spaghetti Monster — deity to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Official Details & Photos of the 2016 Honda Africa Twin

Honda has officially dropped details and photos on its highly anticipated adventure-tourer, the 2016 Honda Africa Twin. A continuation of the legacy by the same name, the new Honda Africa Twin is an off-road focused machine that will go head-to-head with the big ADV bikes already on the market. Built around a 998cc parallel-twin engine, which makes 94hp and 72 lbs•ft of torque, the Africa Twin tips the scales at the curb at 503 lbs (standard model, first photos after the jump) / 534 lbs (DCT/ABS models, shown above). What we think ADV riders will come around to is Honda’s off-road built dual-clutch transmission, which will have the benefit of making shifts while out of the saddle much easier, and giving clutch-free operation, much like a Rekluse clutch.

Gear Review: Arai Corsair-X Helmet

When it comes to helmet brands, Arai Helmet is perhaps one of the best known in the business; and when it comes to the Japanese company’s flagship model, the track-focused Corsair reigns supreme. So, it’s a big deal when Arai decides to update its ready-to-race helmet offering, creating the Arai Corsair-X in the process. This week, we got to test the new Corsair-X in the flesh, spending a full-day riding at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California on Monday — melting away in the 104°F heat — as well as riding around my new hometown of Portland, Oregon. So let’s cut the fluff, breakdown what’s new with the Corsair-X, and talk about what our impressions are of this top-of-the-line helmet.

Honda Africa Twin Specs Leaked with Hi-Res Photo

Last night we brought you a leaked video of the new Honda Africa Twin, which revealed the off-road oriented adventure bike in all its glory. Today, we get to see the leaked specs of the Honda CRF1000L (the model designation of the Africa Twin), along with what looks like an official high-resolution photo. The spec-sheet for the Africa Twin has long been something of interest for ADV fans, with the obvious questions being 1) how much horsepower will it make? and 2) how much will it weight. The answers are 94hp, and 458 lbs dry (467 lbs with ABS, 489 lbs with DCT).

Finally, Here is the Honda Africa Twin in All Its Glory

Honda has been teasing a six-part video series about the Honda Africa Twin, and the final installment has just leaked onto the internet. As you would expect, the video finally gives us the full monty on what the Honda CRF1000L will look like, along with some great action footage. Perhaps even better, the final installment of Honda’s video series also features a very interesting discussion with HRC riders, Honda engineers, and stakeholders to the Africa Twin brand. The discussion is very insightful to the development of the 1,000cc adventure bike platform, including off-roading’s first dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Coming for 2016

Superbike fans should rejoice to the news that Kawasaki has an all-new ZX-10R in the works for the upcoming model year. The news comes from Germany’s reliable Speedweek publication, which interviewed Guim Roda, the Team Manager of Kawasaki’s World Superbike racing effort. Talking to Speedwekk, Roda said “we will have a new Kawasaki ZX-10R in 2016. The concept will be the same but, with some details and changes, it will be even more competitive. Given that the current rules are very restricted, the motorbikes have to be developed with an eye on the sport. We are heading on a path that Aprilia, Ducati and BMW have already taken for this year by bringing out new bikes.”

Iron Lung by Icon 1000

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Beeler44 COMMENTS

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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

Indian Spirit of Munro, Daytona, FL, March 2013

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 Beeler48 COMMENTS

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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.