Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” – it really needs a better name for casual conversation. We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order. I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy!

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago Now Officially Debuts

We already announced the bike last November, and brought you a bevy of hi-res images of the special edition machine. Although now that we think of it, MV Agusta never released anything on this Giacomo Agostini tribute motorcycle — better late than never, right? Back at the EICMA show launch, where the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago was first shown to the public (and Agostini himself), the Varese brand promised us two additional motorcycle launches in early 2014. MV Agsuta made good on half that promise with the Dragster 800 model, hopefully this Ago special edition isn’t the other half of that statement, and MV Agusta still has something waiting in the wings. That being said, the Tricolore & Gold paint scheme is gorgeous, and looks even better in person.

Isle of Man TT Gets TV Deal for Australia & USA

Want to watch the Isle of Man TT from the comfort of your non-British TV, but haven’t been able to in the past? A new TV from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development will do just that. Inking a new TV contract with North One TV, the Isle of Man TT will be televised in the American, Australian, and of course British markets, making it easier than ever to watch the iconic road race. With a five-year contract with the Velocity Channel in the US, the American cable channel will show seven one-hour race shows. Each segment will air within 24hrs of each race, and be tailored for the American market.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months. Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles. “Moreover, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny rumours circulated by the media over the last few days concerning supposed negotiations vis-à-vis the sale of a share of MV Agusta to the Fiat-Chrysler Group,” said Giovanni Castiglioni, the President and CEO of MV Agusta.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

The Indian Gambit – Polaris Puts Harley-Davidson on Notice

04/20/2011 @ 6:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

The Indian Gambit   Polaris Puts Harley Davidson on Notice chess gambit 635x476

Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.

Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.

Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle

04/19/2011 @ 3:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle Indian Motorcycle cylinders 635x412

Polaris Industires has just announced its acquisition of the historic Indian Motorcycle company. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the deal sees one of the most historic names in American motorcycling finding a home with a major player in the motorcycle industry. The move is an interesting one for Polaris, as the company already owns cruiser and touring motorcycle manufacturer Victory Motorcycles.

According to the company press release, Indian will function as an autonomous business unit, but will likely gett help from Polaris’s engineering department, along with the obvious supply chain and purchasing power of the larger brand.

Harley-Davidson Q1 2011 Earnings up 350%

04/19/2011 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Q1 2011 Earnings up 350% marisa miller harley davidson 635x455

Before the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, Harley-Davidson posted its first quarter numbers of 2011 this morning. Despite earnings being up 350% when compared to Q1 of 2010, Harley-Davidson is showing only a modest turnaround compared to its competitors, as worldwide sales are only up 3.5% compared to last year’s. Still, the company has to be pleased with being back in the black, as Harley-Davidson reported over $119 million in profits (Harley-Davidson made $33.3 million in Q1 2010).

The reason for the less enthusiastic news is because these positive numbers were fueled by the company’s financial services division, which is finally posting profits after nearly collapsing the company during the recession, instead of an increase in bike sales. While Harley-Davidson is touting a 155% revenue increase from the HDFS side of accounting books, it goes without saying that when one does barely any financing in 2010, it’s easy to post results like this. Furthermore, future HDFS financial success is pegged to new Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales, which still show a bleak future.

Harley-Davidson the Official Motorcycle of Pennsylvania?

04/18/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson the Official Motorcycle of Pennsylvania? harley davidson number one

Fresh on the heels of Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson branded license plates, the Keystone State is set to make Harley-Davidson the official motorcycle of Pennsylvania. An honor already bestowed by Wisconsin this past February, Pennsylvania also has a bill in the state’s House of Representatives that would give special status to the Bar & Shield.

Sponsored by Representative William Kortz (D-Allegheny County), the Pennsylvania law would pay homage to the “thousands of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts [who] have trekked to York to witness firsthand the living legacy of Harley-Davidson USA.” The bill continues on with some feel-good patriotic sentiment, saying that “the Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a true-blue American iron horse manufactured in Pennsylvania by American workers using American steel.”

Wisconsin Offers Harley-Davidson Branded License Plates

04/15/2011 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Wisconsin Offers Harley Davidson Branded License Plates Wisconsin Harley Davidson license plateThe great State of Wisconsin has begun to offer Harley-Davidson branded vanity license plates to its four-wheeled constituency. With the words “Share the Road” wedged underneath a double-dose of Harley-Davidson branding, the proceeds of the new plates will go to help fund State-sponsored motorcycle safety programs (a worthy cause).

Admittedly, we’re having a hard time with this story. On the one-hand, we love to see that motorcycle safety courses and programs are getting funded. There is a need to educate new riders, and to generally be good stewards for our sport and industry. On the other hand though, we generally frown on the commercialization of public programs, and while Wisconsin is the home of America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the whole thing just feels dirty.

Harley-Davidson Considering an Electric Model

04/01/2011 @ 10:11 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Considering an Electric Model Harley Davidson electric

Our favorite brand from Milwaukee continues to surprise us, as we’ve gotten confirmed reports that Harley-Davidson is considering an electric model to its line-up. Details are scarce on the project, but the company has made a poor secret out of its desire to return as an industry innovator (yes, there was in-fact a time when you could call a Harley-Davidson a trendsetter in the motorcycle industry…it just hasn’t been in this blogger’s lifetime). Likely eyeing the next big trend in motorcycling, internally the Bar & Shield brtand has been exploring the idea of an electric or hybrid ICE/electric drive train.

Bottpower BOTT XR-1 – If Buell Made a Harley

03/07/2011 @ 8:23 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Bottpower BOTT XR 1   If Buell Made a Harley Bottpower BOTT XR 1 concept 4 635x423

Bottpower may have not had the most success in the Moto2 racing category, but they sure know how to make some drool-worthy motorcycles. Taking its hands to a different style of motorcycle, the Spanish firm envisions a flat track racer that’s not too disimilar from the Harley-Davidson XR1200. Cool, but not crazy, right?

Well the best part about this one-off motorcycle, which Bottpower is making the frame for a special customer (a kit for other customers may be possible if the demand is there), is that the BOTT XR-1 will be built from spare Buell parts, which is a sorta of perverse and ironic twist of fate if you ask us.

Harley-Davidson Gets All Its Ducks in a Row – Renegotiates Kansas City Labor Agreement

02/28/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley Davidson Gets All Its Ducks in a Row   Renegotiates Kansas City Labor Agreement Harley Davidson fuel tank logo 635x426

Last week Harley-Davidson reached a deal with the leadership at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 176 and the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 760 labor unions, but details on the deal were under wraps until the labor unions’ membership at Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant could vote on the deal. Ratifying the seven-year contract, Harley-Davidson will be implementing a new production operating system that is being rolled out across all of Harley’s production facilities, including the Missouri plant.

While Harley-Davidson’s new production system is expected to provide greater flexibility for seasonal and other volume-related production changes, it will also allow for great flexibility in customizing customers’ bikes directly on the assembly line. Harley-Davidson has been touting its H-D1 factory customization service, and this new production system would appear to be the back-end changes necessary to make that program possible. We imagine the union members cared less about this added flexibility in Harley’s production line, and were instead more concerned over the 145 workers who would be moved from full-time positions to flexible positions.

5 Interesting Facts from Harley-Davidson’s Annual Report

02/25/2011 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

5 Interesting Facts from Harley Davidsons Annual Report Harley Davidson Marissa Miller American Bombshell 635x508

While we’re still poring over Harley-Davidson‘s annual report, making Excel spreadsheets, and winning at bullshit bingo, a couple interesting facts have struck us about the company and some of the trends it is experiencing. While it’s been mostly doom and gloom around Harley-Davidson in 2010, the Milwaukee-based company does appear to be solely in business because of the strong cost-cutting CEO Keith Wandell has been able to achieve during his tenure. Despite the moaning and groaning from the Bar & Shield loyal about Wandell’s non-motorcycle riding lifestyle, the CEO knows how to trim the fat, which is exactly what this HOG needed. Find five interesting facts for you to mull over this weekend after the jump.

Video: Vintage Cycle Service

02/06/2011 @ 6:02 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Video: Vintage Cycle Service Vintage Cycle Service1

Maybe it’s the low-key feel-good guitar music, or the fact that this video is about a small motorcycle mechanic based in the picturesque city of Florence, Italy (a villa this author used to live in), but there is something about this short film that just makes us feel good about life, motorcycling, and everything else. Promoting a specialty shop for vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the time and effort gone into this five+ minute video is perhaps indicative of the sort of service you’d find at Vintage Cycle Service of Firenze.

With macro shots of some of the finer things regarding zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, we get a glimpse not only on the rich heritage of the Milwaukee brand (note the AMF co-branded tanks scattered about), but a full-immersion into the off-beaten path of motorcycle culture (note the human skull in open-face helmet). You could probably spend hours poking around this shop, looking at different interesting items…or just whittle the time away as the mechanic perfects one of America’s less-than-perfect designs.

The quality is so good, we thought for almost a minute that Harley-Davidson had finally put together a compelling demand marketing campaign, nope just some guys who love bikes and film, achieving what a Fortune 500 company cannot.