How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Paddock Pass Podcast #39 – Aragon

10/09/2016 @ 3:50 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

motogp-2016-aragon-rnd-14-tony-goldsmith-2530

Some illness amongst our crew is the reason this show is getting to you a bit late, but never fear, Episode 39 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is here.

Re-capping the Aragon GP,  David EmmettNeil Morrison, and Steve English talk about the racing events in Spain, and place a friendly wager about how the rest of the season is going to shape up in the MotoGP paddock.

Turning to more serious discussion though, the guys also examine the FIM’s concussion protocol, as it was center stage in Aragon after Danilo Petrucci’s heavy crash, and perhaps hasty return to riding a motorcycle.

The attention then turns to the World Superbike paddock, with a talk about the recent round at Magny-Cours, and how the production-class racers are faring so far this season, and what is in store for next year. We also have a short interview with rider Chaz Davies about the progress of the Ducati squad.

We think this show is well worth the wait, so we hope you like it.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

HJC Is Coming Out with Star Wars Themed Helmets

10/05/2016 @ 2:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

hjc-star-wars-helmet-boba-fett-replica-jpg

Pardon me while I geek out, just a little bit. It looks like HJC has gotten the rights to make Star Wars themed helmets for their 2017 collection. Right now, HJC is showing two helmets, one that mimic’s Kylo Ren’s helmet in The Force Awakens, and the other that replicates Boba Fett’s iconic lid.

Both of these themed helmets are based off the HJC RPHA 11 helmet, the company’s top-of-the-line helmet, which also serves as a platform for HJC’s other branded, tribute, and special edition helmets.

There will also be a “Death Trooper” helmet, based on the HJC FG-17 helmet, that will debut in time to milk interest from the opening of Rogue One.

It should be noted that rumors about a possible Princess Lela helmet, with side-mounted hair buns, are unfounded and possibly started by this publication.

There is no word on price yet (you’ll probably have to sell your speed for it though), but we would expect something north of $600 or so, judging from the price tags on HJC’s helmets that use designs from the MARVEL comic book universe.

Skully Sued by Flextronics for Owed Money

09/24/2016 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

marcus-weller-skully

Things keep getting worse motorcycle helmet startup Skully, as its production partner Flextronics has filed suit for money and materials allegedly owed it.

According to court documents, Flextronics is demanding payment of roughly $2 million dollars – $505,703 in past-due bills, $514,409 in unpaid bills, and another $1.5 million in what Flextronics calls “materials and inventory related to the Skully project.”

This lawsuit is the second legal action taken against Skully since the company laid off its workforce and shut its doors for lack of funding.

AGV Pista GP R Helmet Debuts with Hydration Channel

09/08/2016 @ 1:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

agv-pista-gp-r-race-helmet-08

AGV is at the San Marino GP this week, showing off its latest racing helmet design. As you can tell from the photo above, the AGV Pista GP R is an evolution on the AGV Pista GP, with AGV claiming that “R” has better aerodynamics, venting, and field of view over its predecessor.

More significant changes come in the form of a Pinlock that comes as standard, along with revised spoiler and visor locking system designs.

The reason though we are bringing you this story today though is that the AGV Pista GP R has the first integrated hydration channel, straight from the factory.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #28 – Getting Cranky

08/15/2016 @ 7:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

two-enthusiasts-podcast

Episode 28 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts with some recent news: the closure of Skully and the near-passage of California’s lane-splitting law.

The conversation about Skully quickly moves from the failed startup, to a broader conversation about helmet design and the progress of technology in this space. The show then turns to California’s lane-splitting law, and what it could mean for motorcyclists in states other than California.

Once the news items are out of the way, the show spends a bit of time talking about crankshaft design, namely what it means to have a “crossplane” crankshaft.

Further down the rabbit hole, this turns into a larger conversation about how engines make their power, and how that power is tuned for specific tasks. It’s a tough subject to do only via voice, but we think you’ll enjoy it.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Former Skully Employee Alleges in Lawsuit that Executives Used Corporate Funds as “Personal Piggy Banks”

08/08/2016 @ 7:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

piggy-bank-2

The story of Skully is starting to sound more and more like a script for a soap opera, and today’s installment sees former Skully employee Isabelle Faithhauer bringing suit in the San Francisco County Superior Court against Skully and its founders Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller.

Faithhauer is the former-assistant to Skully CEO Marcus Weller, and for a time, served as the company’s bookkeeper. In her complaint she alleges that Skully wrongfully terminated her, and brings several other causes of action that are related to that wrongful termination.

However in her filing with the court, Faithhauer also lists a number of incidents where Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller allegedly used company funds to buy exotic cars, rent expensive apartments in San Francisco, and travel around the world.

If true, this sort of spending could help explain why Skully ran out of capital, and then officially closed its doors last week, despite having raised roughly $15 million from investors and would-be customers.

You can read the full filing of Faithhauer’s complaint against Skully and the Wellers here, which is a PDF hosted by the San Francisco County Superior Court and a public record.

Skully Officially Closes, So Just How SOL Are You Actually?

08/06/2016 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

skully-ar-1-helmet

Skully on Friday finally acknowledged what has already been known in the motorcycling community: the company was going out of business. The news comes after a last-minute effort by the remaining management to secure a new round of funding.

With $15 million down the drain, work still to do before the Skully AR-1 would be ready to ship, and a growing group of disgruntled early adopters, Skully’s resurrection was not to be.

Instead in a letter to backers and customers, Skully announced that it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure for companies that are going out of business. This news, of course, directly impacts the thousands of motorcyclists who were expecting to receive a Skully AR-1 helmet.

Skully Closes Its Doors and Ceases Operations

07/26/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

skully-ar-1-helmet-black

It was just two weeks ago that we told you about Skully’s investors ousting brothers Marcus Weller and Mitch Weller from the San Francisco startup, and today TechCrunch reports that the motorcycle helmet company will be rather swiftly closing its doors.

A&R readers may remember that Skully’s latest delay to market stemmed from the Skully AR-1 helmet not being ready for mass production, despite the nearly $15 million raised through seed money and a Series A funding round, which was led by Intel Capital.

As such, the closure surely stems from Skully’s investors choosing to shut down the company’s operations, rather than rebuild Skully’s tarnished reputation and retool its product for mass production.

According to TechCrunch, operations at Skully have already ceased, and the website is expected to go offline later today, though as of this writing Skully’s website remains, and its social marketing team is still on Facebook cooling the heels of angry customers.

Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

07/13/2016 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

skully-ar-1-helmet

TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff.

The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus.

The Skully AR-1 helmet debuted to much fanfare, but it soon became clear that the company’s leadership wasn’t up to the task on delivering the promises they were making to the public. Seemingly on a different page with their investors as well, Marcus and Mitch Weller were fired by the company’s Board of Directors.

It looks like Martin Fitcher, Skully’s current COO, will take over the reigns for the company, or what’s left of it, as its new CEO. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.