Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Hero Hastur 620 Concept – A Streetfighter with EBR Inside

02/05/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Aakash Desai16 COMMENTS

Hero Hastur 620 Concept   A Streetfighter with EBR Inside Hero Hastur 620 concept streetfighter 04 635x423

The Hero MotoCorp news keeps coming. Last week we reported on the Hero HXR 250R 250cc lightweight sport bike and the impressively practical Hero RNT diesel scooter.

This time, it’s a 620cc streetfighter concept called the Hero Hastur 620. With a parallel twin putting out around 80hp, and claimed weight of only 352.7 pounds wet, the Hastur definitely has a few of key ingredients needed for success.

Hero HXR 250R – An Erik Buell Racing Designed 250cc

01/30/2014 @ 12:25 pm, by Aakash Desai27 COMMENTS

Hero HXR 250R   An Erik Buell Racing Designed 250cc hero hrx 250r 635x530

With a shot across the bow of former-partner Honda, Hero recently unveiled its flagship HXR 250R small-displacement sports bike this week.

Aimed at young enthusiasts in developing markets and newer riders in general, the claimed power of 31 hp, coupled with the svelte 306 lbs curb weight, make it both more powerful and lighter than the current Honda CBR250R and putting in more in line with the CBR300R.

We are told that the Erik Buell Racing (EBR) had a hand in helping design and develop the bike but it is unclear what specifically EBR contributed towards the design.

Hero RNT 150 Diesel Scooter Concept – Our Kind of Crazy

01/30/2014 @ 10:54 am, by Aakash Desai10 COMMENTS

Hero RNT 150 Diesel Scooter Concept   Our Kind of Crazy hero rnt 150 diesel scooter 635x425

Coming from left field but hitting it squarely in the “awesome” section, Hero recently unveiled a 150cc diesel engine powered motorcycle called the “RNT”. The oil burner, with its square lines, flat surfaces and 1980’s Sci-fi aesthetics looks fantastically practical and more like a scooter than a motorcycle.

The RNT concept weighs about 300 lbs, has a top speed of 44mph, and a tank capacity of 1.5 gallons. At that weight, the Hero RNT 150 is quite pudgy compared to your typical 150cc scooter but the potential benefits of the increased efficiency and range of the Diesel might make up for that.

To top it all off, the concept features two wheel drive. It’ll be interesting to see if and how Hero goes forward with this concept.

Erik Buell Racing Establishes European Operations

01/14/2014 @ 9:35 pm, by Aakash Desai2 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Establishes European Operations 2014 Erik Buell Racing 1190RX 02

Erik Buell Racing has its sights set on the other side of the Atlantic. To expand brand awareness and distribution on the continent, they have opened up an office in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The move is also aimed at promoting their participation in the 2014 FIM World Superbike Championship with riders, Geoff May and Aaron Yates.

With Hero MotoCorp holding a near 50% stake in EBR, it also seems like a move for Hero to expand its marketing and distribution of it’s own products to the European market.

With Hero intending to bring its bikes to the North American market in 2014, an expansion in the European market, if successful, could solidify its brand recognition in the Western world, especially amongst younger riders or commuters looking for a cheaper pair of wheels to get around.

Hero MotoCorp Forms Joint-Venture with Magneti Marelli

12/08/2013 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp Forms Joint Venture with Magneti Marelli hmc mm hero motocorop magneti marelli 635x423

Once upon a time, Hero MotoCorp was Hero Honda, with the Indian brand relying on its Japanese counterpart to provide the technology that then went into the partnership’s emerging market motorcycles. The joint-venture was a stepping stone for Honda to launch into India, and for Hero it was a quick way to gain marketshare in its lucrative domestic market.

Fast-forward to present day, and Hero has not only become Hero MotoCorp, but it has also become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in India. Honda is a stand alone brand in India now, and trails only Hero MotoCorp with its motorcycle sales volume in India.

To maintain its position at the domestic leader, Hero MotoCorp has had to rely on replacing its technical partnership with Honda by forging alliances with various other brands around the world. Perhaps the most famous of these partnerships is the one with Erik Buell Racing, which includes the Indian brand sponsoring the American company’s racing efforts, and owning a sizable 49.2 % chunk of Erik Buell Racing’s private corporate stock.

Add a new brand to the list now though, as Hero MotoCorp has formed a joint-venture with the Italian electronics wizards at Magneti Marelli. There are bonus points for good timing as well, as the news comes just a few weeks before Hero MotoCorp is to be completely free of Honda’s technology.

Breaking: Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million

07/01/2013 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Breaking: Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million erik buell racing america 635x423

A plethora of Indian Financial publications are reporting that Hero MotoCorp has bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 million. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, and for a year now has partnered with Erik Buell Racing for technical development, as well as sponsoring the American company’s AMA Pro Road Racing team for the past two seasons.

Today’s news confirms numerous rumors we have heard about the Hero investing in EBR. Acquiring only 49.2% of Erik Buell Racing, Hero has only a minority stake in EBR, and while we cannot confirm the information, we would imagine that the odd 49.2% ownership was done to keep Erik Buell as the majority shareholder in his company.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Africa and Latin America

11/28/2012 @ 3:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Africa and Latin America Hero MotoCorp logo negative space

Hero may be losing ground to Honda in its smallest displacement categories in its home market of India, but the Indian brand is poised for good growth abroad. Already linked to a number of projects with Erik Buell Racing, Hero MotoCorp is said to be also eyeing the African and Latin American markets for its next international business moves.

Hoping to enter a few markets in Africa and Latin America by the end of the company’s fiscal year, Hero MotoCorp is cagey on specifics regarding its overall international plan. However, in September of this year, Hero’s CEO Pawan Munjal stated that the company would start assembly plants in Kenya and Nigeria, tipping those two countries as the starting points for the Indian company’s African market invasion.

As for Latin America, Colombian market is favored to be the first vector, with Munjal also tipping that Hero MotoCorp would establish an assembly operation in the South America country, and then presumably work its way farther north. The position also easily positions the Indian company for expansion south into lucrative markets like Brazil, Argentina, and Peru.

Hero Building a 250cc Sport Bike with Erik Buell Racing?

11/21/2012 @ 4:59 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Hero Building a 250cc Sport Bike with Erik Buell Racing? erik buell racing america 1270x846

According to The Economic Times, India’s premier financial newspaper, Hero MotoCorp is working on a 250cc sport bike, in conjunction with Erik Buell Racing. You may recall that Hero and EBR have already agreed to a technical partnership, which also saw the Indian motorcycle manufacturer become Erik Buell Racing’s title sponsor in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series.

After its break up with Honda in the Hero Honda relationship, Hero MotoCorp has been relying on other firms for its technical developments. The Economic Times suggests the same can be said for this 250cc sport bike, with EBR handling the development of the machine, while Hero handles the business end of things, namely the quarter-liter’s production and distribution.

Erik Buell Racing Raises $20 Million from Foreign Investors – Plans to Build $20,000 Motorcycle

07/20/2012 @ 11:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Raises $20 Million from Foreign Investors   Plans to Build $20,000 Motorcycle erik buell racing ebr 1190rs american flag paint 07 635x423

It has just been announced that Erik Buell Racing has received $20 million in funding from foreign investors. A part of the federal government’s EB-5 program, the deal was brokered by FirstPathway Partners, a company that specializes in facilitating the funding of companies through wealthy individuals that are abroad. The announcement is a boon for EBR, as the company has struggled for financing since it began operations after the closing of Buell Motorcycles by Harley-Davidson.

The $20 million in funding will go towards building more affordable models, says the Milwaukee-based company. In turn, this news means that Erik Buell Racing will need to bring on more staff, and expand its facility for production at a greater volume (54,000 square feet says Buell). Erik Buell Racing hopes to start selling $20,000 street bikes once it gets its business in order for larger volume, with the expectation being that those models will be similar to the EBR 1190RS, though without such high-spec components.

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014

06/05/2012 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Hero MotoCorp to Be Honda Free by 2014 Hero MotoCorp retro 635x381

The second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Hero MotoCorp, says that by 2014 it will be free of its entanglement with the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Honda. Creating a joint-venture in the Indian market, Hero and Honda went their separate ways in December of 2010, after a 26-year relationship.

Despite Honda wanting to go it alone in India, the renamed Hero MotoCorp retained some licensing rights to use Honda technology until 2014, so it makes sense that the company would announce its impending autonomy at this juncture.