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.

Mugen Shinden Roku Electric Superbike Breaks Cover

03/24/2017 @ 6:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

In Japanese, “roku” is how you say the sixth ordinal, which means the electric superbike you see above, the Mugen Shinden Roku, is the Japanese firm’s sixth entry into the Isle of Man TT.

Piloted this year by John McGuinness and Guy Martin, the expectation is that the Mugen Shinden Roku will be the first electic motorcycle to do a 120 mph lap (from a standing start, no less) at the TT – a barrier that was nearly broken last year.

Team Mugen has progressed rapidly each year it enters the TT Zero class at the Isle of Man, and for 2017 they once again are bringing a new machine to the starting line at Glencrutchery Road.

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Mugen Debuts an Electric Motocross Race Bike

03/24/2017 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

At the Isle of Man TT, Mugen is the team to beat, with the company’s Shinden electric superbike showing the state of the art, when it comes to electric motorcycles.

The asphalt is apparently not enough for Mugen though, as the Japanese tuning house has “partnered” with Honda to build an electric motocross dirt bike.

What you are look at here is the Mugen E.Rex, and don’t let the horrid dinosaur theme put you off, there is some seriously bad to the bone (sorry, couldn’t resist) pieces on this roost-maker.

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Honda CBR250RR, Reporting for Racing Duty

03/20/2017 @ 9:38 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Honda is taking the quarter-liter market very seriously. The debut of the Honda CBR250RR street bike proves as much, with Big Red doubling-down on the segment, just three years after the debut of the Honda CBR300R.

The small-displacement category hasn’t converged on a single-displacement yet, with anything from 250cc to 400cc seemingly filling the gap, all of which makes the Honda CBR250RR an even bolder choice from the Japanese manufacturer, as it’s on the smaller end of the spectrum.

We have yet to see the Honda CBR250RR come to the western markets, but in Asia, HRC is getting ready to go racing with its 250cc twin-cylinder platform. As such, the above is the Honda CBR250RR, in its Astra Honda Racing trim, which debuted this weekend at the Osaka Motorcycle Show.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #47 – Qatar MotoGP Test

03/20/2017 @ 8:42 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Episode 47 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is our last episode from the MotoGP pre-season, and it sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison covering the recent Qatar MotoGP test.

Unsurprisingly, a hot topic of that conversation was about Ducati’s aerodynamic unveil – what is lovingly being called the “hammerhead” fairing for the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. The guys also talked about Honda’s pre-season testing strategy, as HRC searches for its 2017 engine setup.

The MotoGP conversation ends with a long discussion about the progress and state of all the top MotoGP riders, before the attention is turned on the Moto2 and Moto3 championships.

Of course with the pre-season now over, David and Neil can’t resist picking their riders for who will win the 2017 season, and whether they will be placing any bets for yours truly, by proxy.

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!

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Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

03/17/2017 @ 5:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore.

However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point.

I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine.

The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Instead, they should take a note from, Vyrus, which has managed to create an inline-four 600cc speed machine that you want so bad, that you would sell a kidney from your middle-child for it.

Carbon fiber fairings, hub-center steering, edgy design…this bike screams unique and special…and no one cares that it’s not a 1,000cc 200hp monster. 

In other news, the street bike version of the Vyrus 986 M2 is finally available for order. You can order one completed, or in kit form.

As with all things from the Italian factory, each bike is built bespoke to its owner’s wishes, though last we heard the Vyrus 986 M2 was fetching a reasonable €25,000 price tag. Strike that, Vyrus just sent us an updated price list: €37,940 for the Vyrus 986 M2, and €27,930 for the street bike kit.

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Honda’s Weirdest Bike Has “Ghost in the Shell” Cameo

03/17/2017 @ 11:07 am, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

As a fan of the original Japanese animation film of the same name, I am pretty stoked to see that Hollywood is making a live-action version of The Ghost in the Shell (despite the obvious whitewashing of its characters).

While the movie appeals to me on a personal level, now I have a good “professional” excuse to see the film when it screens, thanks to Honda. This is because Scarlett Johansson’s character, “The Major” (again, more whitewashing), will be riding a modified Honda NM4 motorcycle around New Port City.

Yes, Honda’s strange creation – which itself is sometimes referred to as “the Akira bike” or “Batcycle” – seems perfect for a life on the big screen. It might be the first product placement for a motorcycle that actually makes sense to us.

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Video: John McGuinness – A Life Behind the Bars

03/14/2017 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We are eagerly awaiting the start of the 2017 Isle of Man TT, which is easily one of the greatest two-wheeled events on our calendar each year. The build-up to this year’s event is already well underway, and helping fuel our addiction are the folks over at Honda Pro Racing.

Big Red has already announced the return of John McGuinness to its team, and riding the new(ish) Fireblade with McPint will be the affable Guy Martin. The fruits of that pairing have already been apparent, which only adds to the spectacle that surrounds this iconic race.

On a more somber and serious note, Honda has put together another video – this time featuring the 23-time TT winner, John McGuinness. It is about 10 minutes long, so grab a beverage and enjoy McGuinness’ thoughts on racing one of the most demanding courses in motorsport.

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Qatar MotoGP Test Summary – Day 2

03/12/2017 @ 9:22 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

As veteran MotoGP journalist Dennis Noyes pointed out on Twitter late on Saturday night, on Sunday, we will start to see some of the real truth of where everyone stands.

Sunday is the last chance for the MotoGP field to do a full race simulation, putting together everything they have learned during winter testing. The last day of the test at Qatar will serve as a dress rehearsal for the race.

But Saturday gave us a quick peek at everyone’s hands. The work now is more about refinement than revolution, and genuine speed is coming to the fore. The final timesheets from Saturday do not tell the whole story, but a general picture is starting to form.

It is looking increasingly like the 2017 MotoGP championship is going to be fought out between Maverick Viñales and Marc Márquez. And while they focus on each other – which they are doing more and more – other riders, primarily Valentino Rossi, are waiting in the wings to strike.

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Qatar MotoGP Test Summary – Day 1

03/11/2017 @ 1:42 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

At Sepang, after losing so much time to the weather during the shakedown test ahead of the official test, Ducati boss Gigi Dall’Igna said that there was no point in using Sepang as a test circuit, if the surface was not going to dry. “Maybe we have to test somewhere else,” he said.

Now MotoGP is somewhere else. At Qatar, where the rain is never a concern (well, almost never), and the teams don’t have to worry about the track not drying up. But arguably, the teams get even less track time at Qatar than they do at Sepang, even when it rains.

The test starts at 4pm, with the fierce Arabian sun still beating down on the track. Sunset is two hours later, and it takes a while for the track to cool to the normal temperatures that will be found at the race.

Track temperatures are fine after dark, at least for a few hours. Around 10pm, an hour before the track closes, the dew starts to form. The time at which it starts tends to vary, depending on temperature and humidity, but it is very rarely before 11pm.

Invisible damp patches on the track mean riders start to crash without warning. The sensible riders wait for the unlucky riders to crash, then take that as a signal to scurry back to their garages and call it a day.

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The Honda Africa Twin Gets Rally Raid Ready

03/10/2017 @ 10:34 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

When it comes to adventure-tourers that can actually go off-road, the Honda Africa Twin easily rises to the top of the list. Couple that to Honda’s pursuits in the Dakar Rally and other rally raid events, and its easy to see where the Honda Africa Twin Rally could be born.

A special model being built by Italy’s Honda importer that was unveiled at this year’s Motodays show, the Africa Twin Rally won’t be hitting other markets any time soon (read: never), though it shows a machine that many ADV riders have been clamoring for, since the first shots of the Honda CRF450 Rally hit the internet.

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