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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen Concept

In addition to debuting the Husqvarna 701 supermoto, the Swedish brand had two street concepts to unveil at the EICMA show. First up is the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen concept, which is a café racer inspired model. With a 373cc single-cylidner thumper at its core, the Vitpilen (Swedish for White Arrow) sports an attractive and clean design. A modern riff on the 1953 Husqvarna Silverpilen, the idea behind the Husqvarna Vitpilen is that less is more. Making a modest 43hp, the Vitpilen weights a paltry 297 lbs (135kg). Clever details abound on the Vitpilen, and we particularly enjoy the high-tech LED meets retro-scrambler headlight design that sits prominently at the front of the bike.

2015 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto – 690cc of Street Hooligan

We perhaps over-thought Husqvarna’s first proper street bike announcement, as the firm has debuted the Husqvarna 701 supermoto at the EICMA show today. Refining its 701 concept from last year’s show, the 2015 Husqvarna 701 is a 690cc supermoto, that continues to borrow from KTM’s common parts bin. Already with a race-ready 450cc supermoto in its arsenal, the Husqvarna 701 adds another more street-oriented motorcycle to the Swedish brand’s dirt-heavy 2015 lineup. Putting down 67hp through the big four-stroke thumper, the Husqvarna 701 supermoto tips the scales at 320 lbs (145kg), and comes with an APTC slipper clutch, ABS brakes, WP suspension, and ride-by-wire with different riding modes.

BMW Motorrad Posts Best Quarter Ever…Again

04/10/2012 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

BMW Motorrad Posts Best Quarter Ever...Again husqvarna nuda 900r 635x952

Writing about BMW Motorrad’s quarterly sales announcements is starting to become an exercise in mad libs, and I really should just create a template that is full of praise and positive comments, leaving blank only the spots where the figures of units sold and percentage growth should go. Since I have no such template at my disposal, here we go again with the back-slapping about BMW’s sales juggernaut. Read onward for more sales news from Zie Germans.

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarnas Year? Husqvarna sales figures 635x393

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

Concept: BMW F900S by Luca Bar Design

02/24/2012 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Concept: BMW F900S by Luca Bar Design BMW F900S Luca Bar Design 02 635x476

To build the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Swedish brand started with the 798cc motor from the BMW F800 series, and then bored and stroked the parallel-twin motor to a 898cc displacement. Through its marketing of the Nuda 900 & Nuda 900R, BMW has been sure to include itself, making sure that the connection of BMW’s trusted road-going heritage is tied to the previously dirt-only brand of Husqvarna. It’s been an interesting process for both brands to say the least, the product of which we haven’t even begun to fully realize.

Taking a reversal on the process between BMW and Husqvarna, our friend Luca Bar (check out his site here) is back with another concept bike. Designing what he calls a BMW F900S, Luca has taken the F800S aesthetic and imagined it with the newly-revised 900cc motor from the Husqvarna Nuda. Not stopping just at the revised motor though, his F900S also gets some trellis-frame love, which the Nuda used in lieu of the F800’s twin-spar frame design. Adding in some updated bodywork, the total package looks very clean. More photos after the jump.

Husqvarna Baja Concept Breaks Cover

01/20/2012 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Husqvarna Baja Concept Breaks Cover 2012 Husqvarna Baja Concept 6 635x422

Husqvarna continues its push into the on-road market, and has debuted another concept while at the New York IMS show today. Already showing us the Husqvarna Moab Concept in Milan, the folks at Husky have continued the thought process with the Moab, and built a more off-road capable dual-sport, which they are calling the Husqvarna Baja Concept. Another modern-take on retro design, the Baja concept carries over with it many of the Moab’s bigger design features, while sporting a 19″ knobby front tire for better off-road use.

Husqvarna simply states that the concept uses a four-stroke liquid-cooled 650cc single-cylinder motor (same as the Moab), which surely will be sourced from BMW’s G650GS. The Baja is also being fitted with a five-speed wide-ratio transmission, fuel-injection, perimeter frame, and Brembo brakes. The design from Husqvarna looks fairly polished, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some form of the Baja or Moab made it into production (or a fusion of the two).

With the Swedish brand already releasing the Husqvarna Nuda 900, and set to bring the Huqvarna Strada into production sometime this year, BMW’s want-to-be rogue street bike company could have a robust line-up if it brings the Baja and/or the Moab into produciton. We hope they do, because out of all the street bikes we’ve seen from the brand, these two seem the most intriguing, and also happen to better fit the Husqvarna name as well. Photos after the jump.

BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All-Time Sales in 2011

01/09/2012 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All Time Sales in 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure Anniversary 635x423

The BMW Group has released its 2011 sales numbers, and the results for BMW Motorrad are very impressive indeed. Posting its best yearly sales figures ever in the brand’s nearly 90-year history, BMW Motorrad surpassed its previous high-water mark, set in 2007, of 102,467 units by selling 104,286 units in 2011 (Q1, Q2, & Q3).

Accordingly, sales for 2011 were up 6.4% over 2010, which saw the brand sell 98,047 units last year. Helping spur that sales growth was BMW Motorrad’s strong performance in December 2011, as the German motorcycle manufacturer delivered 4,232 units worldwide in the last month of the year alone, a 12.4% increase over sales in December 2010.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

The Eleven of 2011   A Year in Review theelevenof2011 635x392

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

November BMW Sales Up 3.9% – Husqvarna Down 28.4%

12/14/2011 @ 8:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

November BMW Sales Up 3.9%   Husqvarna Down 28.4% husqvarna strada concept motor 635x952

BMW Motorrad’s November sales numbers are in, and they show that the German company is still chugging away at a very strong sales year in 2011. Already surpassing the company’s figures from 2010 by 6.1% (which was no slouch of a year for BMW, we might add), BMW has 100,054 units already under its belt for this year. Moving 6,112 units in November, BMW’s sales are up 3.9% over those from November 2010, which continues the German brand’s strong growth in 2011.

BMW Motorrad, along with most of the European motorcycle brands, have enjoyed relatively positive figures throughout 2011 and in the previous recession. One of the more glaring exceptions to that statement however is Husqvarna. Selling 1,181 units last month, Husqvarna is down 28.4% when compared to November 2010. And for the year as a whole, Husky is down 22.5% compared to 2010, selling only 7,956 units YTD.

Husqvarna Strada – Do We Need A Single-Cylinder Nuda?

11/29/2011 @ 10:06 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Husqvarna Strada   Do We Need A Single Cylinder Nuda? Husqvarna Strada Concept 03 635x423

Husqvarna apparently didn’t show all it had to offer at the 2011 EICMA show in Milan, Italy several weeks ago. Debuting the Husqvarna Strada concept at the Paris Motor Show today, the Swedish brand continues its expansion into the on-road market. While the business case is strong for why Husky is currently on a street-bike tear, excitement over the Strada might pale in comparison to the hype that surrounded the 2012 Husqvarna Nuda 900.

Based on BMW’s 650cc single-cylinder motor found in the G650GS, the Husqvarna Strada has allegedly been “breathed” on by the Italian engineers at Husqvarna. Details are still under lock and key, though Husqvarna says the Strada will tip the scales at less than 170kg dry (375 lbs). While the bike being unveiled in Paris is a concept, Husqvarna plans to go into production with the Husqvarna Strada in 2012, meaning what we’ll see on dealer showroom floors will look very similar to what we see here now.

Up-Close with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept

11/22/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Husqvarna E Go Concept Husqvarna E Go EICMA 05 635x444

While KTM made waves with the debut of the KTM Freeride E electric dirt bike, the Austrian brand wasn’t the only OEM hocking an electric offering at the 2011 EICMA show. Unveiling a very rough electric concept, Husqvarna continued to redefine itself for the future with the Husqvarna E-Go Concept. The physical size of a 125cc dirt bike, the Husqvarna E-Go is the exploration of entry-level electric street motard.

Like the KTM Freeride E, the battery pack looks a bit small for serious street duty, and we’re not so sure about the air-cooled brushed motor, but honestly the E-Go is more about the Swedish brand exploring electric motorcycles in anticipation of that market developing further. With OEMs hoping that electrics will bring in a new generation of rider, the Husqvarna E-Go seems to hit all the right bullet points for that concept, but as always, time will tell.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 6.5% for Q3 2011

11/10/2011 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 6.5% for Q3 2011 2012 BMW F800R 635x423

A mixed quarter for BMW Motorrad, as the Bavarian company has once again posted a positive sales quarter of 6.5% growth over Q3 2010, despite losing money overall in the current inclement financial weather. Selling 28,862 units in this year’s third quarter, BMW Motorrad’s sales, as usual, were primarily carried by the BMW brand, which sold 26,312 motorcycles.

Perhaps lending even further credibility to the business case for the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Swedish motorcycle brand accounted for only 2,550 units in Q3 2011 (or just under 9% of total sales, for those keeping score). Independently, the BMW motorcycle brand was up 7.4% over last year’s same time period, while Husqvarna sales were down 1.9%. BMW & Husqvarna sold 24,493 & 2,601 units respectively during last year’s third quarter.