2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S – A Poor Man’s R1

All the conjecture can finally be put aside, as Yamaha has finally pulled back the curtain on its rumored third variant of the current YZF-R1 – we simply know it as the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S. As was rumored, the Yamaha YZF-R1S sits below what we used to call the “base model” R1, offering an even more affordable option for riders who couldn’t quite afford the current R1’s hefty $16,490 price tag. Yamaha made no qualms about saying that the current YZF-R1 was a track bike first, a street bike second. Now replacing some of the more exotic parts on the R1, the R1S keeps much of the R1’s track-oriented DNA, but offers it in a more paltry $14,990 price tag, on a bike that is directed at more price-conscious street riders.

Ducati 959 Panigale Spotted – Not Much Has Changed

Ducati was all the talk of last week, after its Ducati 959 Panigale and Ducati Hypermotard 739 were outed in filings with the California Air Resources Board. According to the CARB documents, the new “middleweight” Ducati sport bike is set to get a 955cc displacement increase, though we wondered what else would change. Now we have a pretty good answer, as “spy photos” of the production machine are floating around the internet now, which show that the 959 Panigale is very similar in shape to the 899 Panigale it replaces. Like the evolution from the 1199 Panigale to the 1299 Panigale, this year is mostly a model refresh, rather than a new design from the ground up. Aside from the larger displacement, it will be interesting to see what changes Ducati has made more subtly, with the electronics perhaps.

Honda Grom 50 Scramblers Are the Cutest Dirt Bikes Ever

The Honda Grom has been a huge success for Honda, with the unassuming pocket bike basically selling out in its inaugural year, and it is still selling strong to this day. With two Grom concepts debuting alongside two other concepts of the Honda Super Cub, it is easy to draw some parallels between the iconic Cub line, and its modern-day equivalent, the Grom. Pint-sized, lovable, and affordable…come on, you know you want one. If you don’t, well first off, we think you’re lying, secondly you should see what Honda is set to show off at the Tokyo Motor Show. Creating two concepts that take the Honda Grom off-road, Honda has turned the Grom into more of a scrambler, with a modern version as well as a more retro variant. New or old, you take your pick, but we like them both.

Honda Super Cub Concept Brings Modern Flare to a Classic

In addition to the Honda EV-Cub concept, which surely means that the venerable Super Cub scooter is set to get an electric variant, Honda has also sent us photos of the Honda Super Cub concept, which shows us a modern scooter design based off the iconic Cub model. The Honda Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle ever, and in the United States its known best as the poster child for the “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” campaign. It is a motorcycle that has transcended the motorcycle industry. Obviously Honda is taking a big risk by changing its most famous creation, but we think that this modernized Super Cub concept is a fitting successor to its namesake.

Honda EV-Cub Concept Debuts, Yet Again

We’re not really sure why Honda is debuting the EV-Cub concept again at the Tokyo Motor Show, but it is. Taking the iconic Honda Super Cub design, and adopting it to a new electric platform, Honda is making an obvious play with one of the “nicest” machines it ever created. Unlike Big Red, we won’t rehash the idea again, other than to say just build it already, Honda – electric scooters make a lot of sense, especially in dense urban environments. The Honda Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle of all time, and we’re sure the EV-Cub will continue that heritage.

Honda Neowing Concept – A Hybrid Leaning Trike

It seems that the Japanese are really exploring the idea of leaning multi-wheel concepts. First was the Yamaha Teseract, with its four wheels of leaning fury, which gave rise to the production of the Yamaha Tricity scooter, and the Yamaha 03GEN-f & Yamaha 03GEN-x concepts. Team Green has explored this space with the Kawasaki J Concept, Piaggio has its MP3 500 maxi-scooter (and supposedly has the lockdown on patents for this innovative design), and now Honda has its Neowing – a gas/electric hybrid leaning three-wheeler. Like its counterparts, this trike has two wheels in the front, with the rider in a motorcycle-styled sitting position. Adding to the motorcycle experience, the trike leans through turns. Huzah!

Suzuki GSX Concept Hints At…Something

Unlike the Honda “Light Weight Super Sports” concept, which gives a clear indication as to the cut of the Japanese manufacturer’s jib, the Suzuki GSX concept leaves a bit more to the imagination. We know that the Suzuki GSX-R line is woeful need of an update, and our best information pegs the Suzuki GSX-R1000 finally getting a refresh in mid-2016, as an early 2017 model. Other rumors suggest we’ll see something interesting from the Suzuki brand at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and hopefully that doesn’t mean just this GSX concept. Maybe this is a nod that Suzuki had finally awoken from its slumber, and plans on refreshing some of its most iconic sport bikes.

Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” Concept Gives Hope for a Honda CBR250RR in the Near Future

When it comes to the small-displacement trend that we’ve seen from manufacturers, Honda’s offering is competent, but lacking when compared to what has come out from Kawasaki, KTM, and Yamaha. If the Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” concept (super high-resolution photo above), which will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, is any indication though, the Japanese manufacturer is about to blow the competition out of the water with what will likely be the Honda CBR250RR. The concept shown has a different chassis from the Honda CBR250R and Honda CBR300R, which bode well for the machine being substantially different from what is on the market now from Honda.

The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically. Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course. That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

New 937cc Ducati Hypermotard 939 Outed for 2016

In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board. The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard, the up-spec Hypermotard SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada. Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox. These Hypers surely represent three of Ducati’s upcoming nine models set to be released at the 2016 EICMA show, and we have to say that we are looking forward to seeing what the Italian marque has done with what is surely our favorite motorcycle on the market.

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

03/26/2013 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS


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.

Harley-Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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 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

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.