XXX: The 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP Race Bike

These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016. As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides. Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi5yZ_6OS2s

Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self. He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show. Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward. We already broke the news to you that an updated Brutale 675 would debut in Q2 2016, with new Dragster 800 and Brutale 800 RR models soon to follow, with MV Agusta’s updated 798cc three-cylinder engine that now meets Euro4 emission standards.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case. The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines. Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Opinion: Why the Rossi vs. Marquez Controversy Isn’t Going Away in MotoGP, Any Time Soon

If the Movistar Yamaha launch at Barcelona made one thing clear, it is that the feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez will be just as bitter in 2016 as it was in 2015. In Barcelona, Rossi once again repeated the litany of charges he leveled against Marc Márquez at the end of last season. Márquez had decided early in the season he would try to stop Rossi from winning the title, had played with Rossi at Phillip Island, done far worse at Sepang, then stayed behind Lorenzo at Valencia to hand him the title. For Valentino Rossi, nothing has changed since Valencia 2015.

Ducati draXter Concept Debuts in Verona

Ducati is at this year’s Motor Bike Expo in Verona, and it has a bevy of concepts and customs it wants to show the world. The Italian brand’s trio of Sixty2 Scrambler concepts didn’t really spark our engine, but the Ducati draXter Concept is certainly of note and worthy of further scrutiny. The Ducati XDiavel was Bologna’s big reveal at EICMA this year, and while the cruiser model wasn’t our cup of tea, we might have to change our tune with this decked-out version of the machine. Ducati says that the draXter model interprets the XDiavel from a “sports” point-of-view, and the modifications made to the machine certainly do a good job of connoting a bike that leaps from the line.

KTM Made Over €1 Billion in Revenue in 2015

To put it succinctly, KTM is crushing it. In 2015, the Austrian company posted another banner year, which is nothing terribly new from a European motorcycle brand; but in just a few five short years, KTM has addd over 100,000 motorcycles to its volume of production. As such, the Austrian sold 180,801 KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles in 2015, making €1.02 billion in the process. This is a 14% increase over KTM’s sales in 2014, a 18% increase in revenue, and a 26% in income (€95 million, EBIT). This also makes 2015 the first time that KTM has exceeded a billion euros in revenue, and the fifth year in a row that KTM sales have increased. According to KTM, this makes them the fastest growing motorcycle company in the world.

The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 Is Ready for WSBK Duty

Yamaha is headed back to the World Superbike paddock, and it is not taking any half-measures in doing so. As such, the Japanese manufacturer has retained the talents of Sylvain Guintoli (World Superbike Champion, 2014) and Alex Lowes (British Superbike Champion, 2013), with the highly regarded Crescent Racing running the factory-backed team. Officially debuting the team today in Spain, along with Yamaha’s other racing programs, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team should be a potent package for the pinnacle of production motorcycle racing, and we expect strong results from them, right off the bat. This is because the new Yamaha YZF-R1 had an entire year of honing at the national level.

Super Hi-Res Photos of the 2016 Yamaha YZR-M1

Debuting today in Spain, the Yamaha Racing factory MotoGP team took the wraps up the 2016 Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike, and debuted its team, which features riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Seemingly, not much has changed to the Yamaha YZR-M1, though the bike now features 17″ wheels and Michelin tires. Yamaha’s spec-sheet (full listing, after the jump) is sparse on specifics as usual, and thus is vague on its details – horsepower is listed simply as “over 240hp” for instance. Indeed, most of the changes to the Yamaha YZR-M1 reside beneath the fairings, with perhaps the most important changes coming to the M1’s ECU, which is now a spec Magneti Marelli unit that runs the unified team software.

Is Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade for 2016?

It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far. The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda’s electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010. Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner. Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016.

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

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

motorcycle-repair-price-list

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.

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.