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.

Sunday Summary at Austin: Of Cracking Under Pressure & Accidental Tire Management

04/14/2014 @ 1:20 am, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Austin: Of Cracking Under Pressure & Accidental Tire Management 2014 Sunday COTA Austin MotoGP Scott Jones 16 635x423

Normally it takes bad weather to shake things up in a MotoGP race. For most of the day, it looked like the rain was ready to start at any time, but in the end it stayed pretty much completely dry, bar a quick and meaningless shower just before the Moto2 race started.

Regardless of what the weather decided to do, we still ended up with a bizarre MotoGP race anyway. The weirdness started even before the race had started, and continued pretty much all the way to the very last corner.

Jorge Lorenzo came to Texas knowing he faced an uphill challenge. Last year at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez had run away with the race, with only Dani Pedrosa able to follow. Lorenzo had put up a valiant struggle, but had been unable to prevent a Repsol Honda whitewash.

In 2014, Lorenzo had come facing an even tougher task, if that were possible. After crashing out at the first race, Lorenzo knew he had to score as many points as he could without taking too many risks.

He would have to find a very fine balance between pushing hard to try to catch – and who knows, maybe even beat – the Repsol Hondas, and ensuring he didn’t risk ending up with a second zero to go with the crash at Qatar.

The extra tension that created may have played a factor in what happened next. Lorenzo came to the grid with more bugs collected on his visor than usual. As he sat waiting for the official holding the red flag to leave the grid, he did something he never normally did while waiting for the start.

To ensure he got the best start possible, Lorenzo decided to remove the first tear-off from his visor, to clear up his vision. While he was pulling the clear plastic strip from his visor, the official hurried off the grid ahead of the start, as the rules dictate. When Lorenzo looked back up, he saw the official gone, and in a moment of confusion, got ready to start.

The start procedure specified in the rulebook states that once the official leaves the grid, the red starting lights will come on for between 2 and 5 seconds.

Once the red lights go out, the race officially starts, and riders are free to chase into Turn 1 as fast as they can. That light change is crucial, the lights imprinted onto the retinas and brains of world championship motorcycle racers around the globe. Once the lights change, you go.

Ride Review: Honda CB650F ABS

04/09/2014 @ 10:05 am, by Iwan van der Valk14 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Honda CB650F ABS 2014 Honda CB650F review 02 635x423

For 2014, Honda broadens its range of affordable, smart looking, middleweights further with the new Honda CB650F ABS, and together with the Honda NC750 series, the brand now has covered virtually all types of riders in the street-naked segment.

The brand new (not-terribly-exciting) four-cylinder engine forms the trusty basis of a whole new series of motorcycles, as previously demonstrated with the NC models. Thankfully though, the 649cc motor picks-up extremely smooth from very low revs, and fills a round and creamy torque curve.

Apart from some vibrations in the bars and footpegs, there is nothing much going on below seven-grand; but once you pass this threshold, there is quite some lovely acceleration on tap. Still, we found the on-off reaction of the fuel injection to be harsh though: it was quite hard to get on the throttle smoothly on corner exit.

A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 1

04/07/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

A Prelude to MotoGPs Silly Season, Part 1 2014 MotoGP Wednesday Qatar Scott Jones 04 635x423

It is going to be a busy – and lucrative – year for the managers of MotoGP riders. With almost everyone out of contract at the end of 2014, and with Suzuki coming back in 2015, top riders will be in high demand. The signs that competition will be intense for both riders and teams are already there, with the first shots already being fired.

Silly season for the 2015 championship kicked off very early. At the end of last year, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made a few casual remarks expressing an interesting in persuading Jorge Lorenzo to come to Honda. He repeated those comments at the Sepang tests, making no secret of his desire to see Lorenzo signed to an HRC contract.

Lorenzo has so far been cautious, ruling nothing out while reiterating his commitment to Yamaha. He is aware of the role Yamaha have played in his career, signing the Spaniard up while he was still in 250’s, and bringing him straight into the factory team alongside Valentino Rossi in 2008, against some very vigorous protests from the multiple world champion.

Yamaha have stuck with Lorenzo since then, refusing to bow to pressure to the extent of letting Rossi leave for Ducati, and in turn, Lorenzo has repaid their support by bringing them two world titles, 31 victories, and 43 other podium finishes.

Honda Breaks World Record for Fastest Lawn Mower

04/02/2014 @ 4:19 pm, by Bryan Delohery8 COMMENTS

Honda Breaks World Record for Fastest Lawn Mower Honda HF2620 Mean Mower lawnmower land speed record 11 635x422

For those of you who are fans of the Stig, you may remember his infamous “Mean Mower” episode from Top Gear’s Speed Week 2013, as he blasted around the track on a lawn mower that sounded more like an Aston Martin than a two-stroke.

As comical as it was, that mower was producing 109hp, and had a 0-60 time of four seconds, all while retaining the ability to cut the grass and corners.

That Mean Mower is back and this time, and at the IDIADA proving ground in Tarragona, Spain, it broke a Guinness World Record.

Honda NM4 Coming to the USA – 670cc & $10,999

04/01/2014 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Honda NM4 Coming to the USA   670cc & $10,999 2014 Honda NM4 Vultus 16 635x476

This is either the most awesome April Fools joke from an OEM ever, or the Honda NM4 is coming to America. Announced two weeks ago at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the NM4, or “Vultus” as it’s being called in Europe, features a 670cc two-cylinder engine for the US market (the machine seems to get a 745cc parallel-twin lump in other markets), and includes Honda’s dual-clutch transmission.

Why the NM4 gets a capacity reduction for the American market is not clear to us, though the entire launch of the Honda NM4 has been a confusing one, as the motorcycle was debuted as a concept bike in Japan, and shortly thereafter announced as a production model for Europe (now for the USA & Canada as well). Effective communications aside, considering the favorable comments we got last month about the NM4/Vultus, Honda has a popular motorbike on its hands here.

Expect the 2015 Honda NM4 to hit the United States in June with a $10,999 MSRP price tag. You can get it in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Pre-production photos are after the jump, along with the technical specifications for the American market.

Yoshishige Nomura Replaces Tetsuo Suzuki at HRC

04/01/2014 @ 8:36 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Yoshishige Nomura Replaces Tetsuo Suzuki at HRC Yoshishige Nomura Tetsuo Suzuki HRC President

HRC are to have a get a new President. After five years, Tetsuo Suzuki (right) is to step down as present of Honda’s racing department, and move back towards the production side of the business. He is to be replaced by Yoshishige Nomura (left), a man with a long history in HRC.

Nomura was involved in the engineering of some of Honda’s most classic engines, including the NR750, the RC30, and the RC45. He also had a role in the 990cc V5 RC211V MotoGP machine.

Nomura will oversee all of Honda’s racing activities, while HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto will look after the day-to-day running of Honda’s involvement in MotoGP. The HRC press release issued announcing Nomura’s appointment appears after the jump.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

03/28/2014 @ 12:25 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R? 2014 MotoGP Qatar GP Sunday Scott Jones 16 635x423

The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks.

Expectations received a boost when former world champion Casey Stoner tested the RCV1000R, praising its performance. Speculation reached fever pitch when HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto told the press at the launch of the bike that the RCV1000R was just 0.3 seconds a lap slower than the factory RC213V in the hands of a test rider.

Was that in the hands of Casey Stoner, the press asked? Nakamoto was deliberately vague. “Casey Stoner is a Honda test rider,” he said cryptically.

Once the bike hit the track in the hands of active MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Scott Redding at the Valencia test, it became apparent that the bike was a long way off the pace. At Sepang in February, the situation was the same.

Nakamoto clarified his earlier statements: no, the times originally quoted were not set by Casey Stoner, who had only done a handful of laps in tricky conditions on the bike.

They had been set by one of Honda’s test riders. And yes, the biggest problem was the straights, as times at Sepang demonstrated. Test riders were losing around half a second along the two long straights at Sepang, Nakamoto said.

In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry.

Turning in and braking was much improved, something which did not come as a surprise after the American’s time on the Ducati. Once the bikes arrived at Qatar, the Honda made another step forward, Hayden cutting the deficit to 1.4 seconds from the fastest man Aleix Espargaro.

By the time the race rolled around, the Hondas had cut the deficit again. Comparing fastest laps of the race, Scott Redding set the quickest lap for production Honda rider, lapping just 0.841 slower than his teammate Alvaro Bautista, who set the quickest lap of the race.

But consistency proved to be the undoing of the Hondas, Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden crossing the line just 0.035 seconds apart, but over 32 seconds down on the winner, Marc Marquez. Where the difference between the fastest and slowest flying laps of Redding and Hayden was nearly 2.4 seconds, for the front runners, that difference was just over a second.

The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes? Is it purely top speed, or is it a combination of speed and acceleration? And where does that lack of speed and acceleration come from?

Honda’s Forgotten “Frameless” Chassis Design Patent

03/27/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Hondas Forgotten Frameless Chassis Design Patent Honda motorcycle monocoque chassis design patent 635x508

Before Ducati’s monocoque chassis design was all the rage in superbike design, the folks at Honda were busy toying with the same idea.

Outlining a patent in 2006 for a motorcycle whose engine would be fully utilized as a part of the chassis, Honda’s design, which differs in minutiae, predates Ducati’s patent by almost a year and a half.

A noticeable departure from Honda’s MotoGP design, one can argue whether Honda’s monocoque chassis was destined for the next iteration of the CBR1000RR or the next generation VFR at the time of its conception.

2014 Honda NM4 Vultus Debuts in Japan

03/20/2014 @ 10:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler56 COMMENTS

2014 Honda NM4 Vultus Debuts in Japan honda nm4 1 concept 635x425

According to Honda, the NM4 was “developed under the keywords of ‘the Neo-futuristic’ and ‘COOL,’ pursuing new, unique styling.” We have no idea what that means, but the two designs, the Honda Honda NM4-1 (black) and Honda NM4-2 (white) are sort of a mashup between the company’s DN-01, Valkyrie, and the bike from the anime movie Akira.

To that end, Honda says that the design concept focuses on two elements: “front massive” styling and a cockpit position. More tangible technical items include an LED headlights, tail lights, and turn signals, as well as panniers for storage (featured on the NM4-2). Underneath the hood is a 745cc, two-cylinder, 54hp engine that has Honda’s dual-clutch transmission.

Honda V4 Superbike Engine Outed in Patent Photos

03/12/2014 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Honda V4 Superbike Engine Outed in Patent Photos honda v4 engine patent drawing 635x423

Honda’s road-going V4 superbike project has seemingly stalled, for the umptenth time in the past decade. While the bike has been rumored for years, the project just a year and a half ago was confirmed by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.

Since that confirmation, the project’s delivery time has been pushed back, thought the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has committed itself to building the MotoGP-inspired road bike.

With reports speculating on a possible price tag well into the six-figure range, the rumormill is on the rev limiter regarding this superbike, so if there is one thing we actually know about the machine, it is that we don’t actually know much about it.

A 1,000cc displacement is of course expected, along with a four-cylinder v-angle cylinder configuration. If we can presume a setup similar to what is found on the Honda RC213V MotoGP race bike, then make that a 90° cylinder head arrangement.

If we had really been on the ball though, we likely could have told you all this, six months ahead of Ito’s confirmation, as patent documents discovered by Spanish magazine SoloMoto shows the V4 superbike engine in line-drawing form, from as early as March 2012.