Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Bell Helmets Acquired by Vista Outdoor

02/25/2016 @ 11:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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With RevZilla joining forces with Cycle Gear and Motorcycle USA shutting down this week, it has been a busy month for the business side of the motorcycle industry. Now we have more news to report, as BRG Sports, owner of the Bell Helmets brand, has sold its action sports business to Vista Outdoor.

The move adds some of the BRG Sport brands: Bell Helmets, Giro, Blackburn, and C-Preme, into Vista Outdoor already extensive lineup of impressive outdoor and shooting brands, such as Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, and Federal Premium.

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Arai Unveils Its 2016 Limited Edition Isle of Man TT Helmet

02/10/2016 @ 6:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Every year Arai Helmet comes out with a highly coveted limited edition lid for the Isle of Man TT; and each year has a different design, with the latest crop coming from the studio of Aldo Drudi.

This year’s design comes on the Arai Corsair-X, a helmet we were very impressed with when we tested it at Thunder Hill last year.

As you can see from the photos, Drudi has emblazoned the Corsair-X helmet with the “TT” logo, as well as the island nation’s Triskelion symbol, which is of three running legs. “Ellan Vannin” is of course the native Manx name for the Isle of Man.

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Bell Developing Helmet with Integrated 360° Video Camera

01/11/2016 @ 11:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Are you ready for another post about helmets, especially one with integrated technology? Sure you are, Sparky – and you will be happy to learn about this collaboration between Bell Helmets and a company called 360fly.

Like the Nikon KeyMission video camera, 360fly’s system captures everything around the rider in 4k video resolution, and then creates a video that can be viewed from an immersive virtual-reality perspective.

Thanks to a built-in GPS, altimeter/barometer, and accelerometer, the 360fly system is capable of overlaying telemetry data into its video, among a variety of other features. What really separates the unit from the rest though is what is in the pipeline from 360fly.

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BMW Developing HUD Motorcycle Helmet

01/08/2016 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Another release by BMW Motorrad at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the German company says it is working on a motorcycle helmet with an integrated heads-up display (HUD), thus responding to the call for more advanced helmet technology.

BMW already has this technology in its automotive wings, using an optional HUD system that is projected onto the interior of a vehicles windshield.

Now BMW seems to be taking a page from other players in the helmet space, and is looking to bring HUD technology to its motorcycle offerings with the help of California-based company DigiLens.

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The Massive 2016 MotoGP Rule Update

01/08/2016 @ 2:14 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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With major changes to the technical regulations for MotoGP in 2016, it has taken some time for the FIM to produce a new and revised version of the rulebook.

The first provisional version was made available today, the new rules bringing together all of the new rules agreed over the past few years into a single set of regulations.

Most of the new rules have already been written about during the year, but putting them into a single rulebook helped clarify them greatly.

The biggest changes are to the technical regulations. The abolition of the Open class means everyone is back on a single set of rules. Or rather, nearly everyone.

There are still two types of manufacturers: manufacturers subject to the standard rules, and manufacturers who have not yet had sufficient success, and therefore have been granted a number of concessions.

Those concessions are more limited than the Open class, though, and relate now only to testing and to engine development. Everyone will have the same amount of fuel, the same tire allocation, and everyone will use the same electronics, the spec hardware and the unified software.

Though many fans are disappointed that there isn’t just a single set of rules, the concessions which remain are absolutely vital to the long-term health of the series.

With Honda, Yamaha, and since last year, Ducati, all subject to a freeze on engine development and limited testing, Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM, when they join the series in 2017) stand a chance of cutting the gap to the more successful factories.

Without concessions, the smaller factories wouldn’t stand a chance of catching the others, especially not a factory with almost limitless resources like Honda. Indeed, without the concessions granted to Ducati, there is a very good chance the Italian factory would have left MotoGP in 2014, after three long years without results.

The previous era, when the factories all competed under a single set of rules, ended up with just 17 bikes on the grid, and manufacturers showing more interest in leaving MotoGP than in joining. That situation has been completely reversed.

A more intriguing change has been the introduction of clear rules on the safety equipment to be used by riders. Back protectors and chest protectors are now compulsory, and minimum standards have been imposed for helmets, leathers, boots and gloves.

Rider safety equipment will now be much more closely regulated and monitored.

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Jorge Lorenzo Drops HJC for Shark Helmets

01/04/2016 @ 10:31 am, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

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Jorge Lorenzo’s helmet issues through the 2015 season have finally caused him to switch brands. The Spaniard today announced he has signed a contract for the next three seasons with the French helmet maker Shark.

Shark have a long history in MotoGP and World Superbikes, having supplied many top riders such as Olivier Jacque, Carl Fogarty, Randy De Puniet, and Troy Corser.

They currently support Aleix Espargaro, Johann Zarco, the Lowes twins Alex and Sam, Tom Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli, Scott Redding and Miguel Oliveira, among others. As such, Shark is an established name in motorcycle racing and a known quantity.

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Skully Sends Update Regarding Its Delayed Helmets

08/05/2015 @ 5:32 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Most Asphalt & Rubber readers are aware of Skully, the San Francisco startup that is making a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display (HUD), and many A&R readers are also aware that Skully is now officially late in delivering its maiden product to the masses.

Finally acknowledging the tardiness to its 2,000 or so early-adopting customers, Skully has released a video (after the jump) explaining its activities, and that the company is on-track for its new delivery date, before the end of the year – or as they say in marketing speak: just in time for Christmas.

Of course we knew back in late-2013, when Skully first announced its helmet, that there was no way the company was going to hit its delivery promise for 2014, though now the company seems in good stead for its new 2015 promise, with an actual office in SF, a deal with Flextronics to make the augmented reality portion of the helmet, and manufacturing tooled-up.

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AGVisor – AGV Helmets Get LCD-Tinted Visors

03/02/2015 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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One visor to rule them all, that’s the dream of many motorcyclists that enjoy tinted visors during the day, but want an easy “clear” option for night-time riding.

Until recently, if you wanted to protect your eyes from the sun, most helmet systems required you to have two shields: one clear – for night-time riding, and one tinted – for daytime use.

Not always a convenient or practical solution, we have seen riders resort to wearing sunglasses behind clear visors; or worse, wearing tinted visors at night.

Thankfully, some solutions have emerged from the motorcycle helmet industry, namely transitional visors (as seen from Bell Helmets), which change tint based on the ambient light.

Another technology is electrochromatics, which tints the glass or plastic by applying an electrical current (actually, the electricity makes the cells clear in most use-cases). Helmet startup Skully features this technology on its now vaporware AR-1 helmet design.

Add respected helmet manufacturer AGV to the mix now, as the Italian company debuted its LCD-based AGVisor system in Switzerland last week, though with little fanfare.

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Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

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Icon Ties Arai in 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study

05/26/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

J.D. Power and Associates have released their 2011 Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are pretty interesting. The study takes an 11-point approach on helmet satisfaction, having helmet purchasers rank their lid on the following attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

Perhaps unsurprising to many, Arai topped the list as having the highest rating (this makes the 13th year in a row for the Japanese helmet manufacturer), but this year will carry an asterisk, as Icon tied Arai in customer satisfaction with a score of 852 out of 1,000. According to JDPA, Arai’s scores across all 11 attributes were strong, with a particular strength in “fit & comfort” and “face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out”. Similarly, Icon scored especially well in “color/graphic design”, while Shoei got strong marks for “ease of replacing the face shield”.

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