Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing. That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense. Let’s be frank, the idea of using an R1 for a café racer concept is our kind of crazy. But, the design also makes some sense when you look at Yamaha’s recent focus on its “sport heritage” lineup, which is an attempt to appeal to the post-authentic crowd.

BMW Brings Emergency SOS “eCall” System to Motorcycles

In an effort to improve safety for motorcyclists, BMW Motorrad has developed what it calls an “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, which allows motorcyclists to call for help with the touch of a button on their motorcycle. The system is part of a larger push in Europe for an “eCall” emergency SOS program that would alert emergency personnel to a vehicle crash with greater expediency and efficiency. According to the pan-European eCall trial, systems like BMW’s can bring emergency services to a crash scene 40% to 50% faster, and the European Commission estimates that an eCall system like BMW’s could save up to 2,500 lives each year (saving €26 billion in the process, as well).

More Electronic Rider Aids Comes to the Dirt – Husqvarna’s 2017 Motocross Line Features Traction Control

The rise of electronic rider aids has come to consumer-level dirt bikes, with Husqvarna now offering traction control on all of its four-stroke motocross motorcycles for the 2017 model year. Traction control on dirt bikes isn’t a new concept, with racing machines featuring the technology for almost a decade now (in some form or another, and depsite what the rules say), but Husqvarna’s foray into the use of electronics marks a new era for consumer dirt bikes. As we see already in the on-road segments, traction control and other electronics are proving themselves to be the new horsepower.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs. Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited. Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines. For those who don’t know, the Kumamoto factory is Honda’s flagship installation, and it produces many of Honda’s top motorcycles (Gold Wing, CBR1000RR, VFR1200F, CRF250X, etc).

Ride in Peace, Michael Czysz

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Michael Czysz, who finally succumbed to his years-long battle with cancer today. Michael is known best in our two-wheeled circles for starting the MotoCzysz C1 MotoGP project, which eventually morphed into the Isle of Man TT winning electric motorcycle race team of the same name. However, Michael’s accomplishments outside of the motorcycle industry are perhaps even more impressive, as he was a prominent designer for the rich and famous through his Architropolis design firm. I think it is Michael’s vision for ingenuity in the design world that fueled his work with motorcycles, as Michael’s machines featured a number of innovations of his own creation, which surely flowed from his creative personality.

Tamburini T12 Massimo – The Maestro’s Last Work

It has been exactly two years since we lost Massimo Tamburini, the father of iconic motorcycles like the Ducati 916 Superbike and the MV Agusta F4. Despite his passing, the Italian designer’s influence can still be felt in the motorcycle industry today, and his creations continue to be highly coveted pieces for motorcycle collectors around the world. Many know that Tamburini was the “ta” in Bimota, which saw The Maestro team up with Valerio Bianchi and Giuseppe Morri, and together the three pillars of the industry would create countless exotic two-wheeled examples. In essence, Tamburini’s name can be linked to the most lust-worthy motorcycles in the modern era, and we are about to add one more machine to that list.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States. For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer. As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network. This is the third year a row that Pied Piper has ranked Ducati as its top brand (its Ducati’s 10th year in the Top 3), and its easy to see why.

Yamaha Folds Star Motorcycles Back into Its Core Brand

The eagle eyes at Motorcycle.com have noticed that Yamaha Motor Corporation is in the process of folding its Star Motorcycles cruiser brand back into the company’s core motorcycle business, under the Yamaha name. The move is a tectonic shift for the space, as Star Motorcycles was Yamaha’s attempt to give Harley-Davidson a run for its money with superior “metric cruiser” offerings. As such, the brand was originally set aside from Yamaha’s other motorcycle models, in an attempt to set Star Motorcycles away from the “Jap Bike” mentality that existed at the time in the cruiser demographic. Yamaha, along with Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki have had limited success in this regard, despite offering superior machinery on virtual every metric, save one: their bikes are not from the Bar & Shield brand.

Praëm BMW S1000RR – Getting Modern with Retros

We really like what we’ve seen so far from the guys at Praëm. Their first proper build, based off a Honda RC-51, was waaaay outside the box, and featured some really interesting design elements for us to chew on. Their follow-up to that work is no different. The Praëm BMW S1000RR is a modern riff on the classic superbike design – think of it as a 21st century take on late-20th century racing. As the name suggests, the donor bike is a BMW S1000RR, but the styling comes from something you would see in the 1980s – perhaps at the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race, as Praëm suggests in their text. The “Optimus Praëm” build is a logical, yet a highly more functional, response to what we have seen in the café racer scene as of late.

MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors. Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO. This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million. To complicate matters further, some of that debt was secured by the involvement of AMG, and its investment contract stipulates that if AMG doesn’t own 20% or more of MV Agusta then the loaned sum is due immediately.

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

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

harley-davidson-american-legend

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.

Harley-Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100

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

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

Bottpower-BOTT-XR-1

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

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.