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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

India’s Struggle to Sell Millions of Vehicles Before Tougher Emissions Law Comes into Effect

04/13/2017 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

If you think emission regulations in the United States or Europe are onerous, then you should see the hash of things that is being played out in India right now, as hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been sitting on showroom floors, flirting with disaster at the possibility of being declared unsellable in the country.

The exact figure varies from which source you believe (and their understanding that “lakh” means 100,000 in Indian parlance), so the affected number of vehicles ranges from 700,000 to 1.4 million units – most of which are trucks and two-wheelers.

As such, just days before the deadline 600,000 motorcycles soon-to-be non-compliant motorcycles were believed to be still unsold, the result of an interesting intersection of a rapidly changing environmental landscape, an unforgiving legal system, and a slowly reacting vehicle industry.

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What It Really Means for Harley-Davidson Now That Trump Has Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

03/07/2017 @ 9:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

An Asphalt & Rubber reader sent me link recently, outlining how President Trump's pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would adversely affect international sales for Harley-Davidson.

At first I was just going to post a quick synopsis and send you all to read it for yourselves, if you wanted to dive deeper into the meat of the story. But then, I did some digging of my own.

The story, done by Forbes, doesn't connect the dots too well. And while I agree with the author's ultimate point, the reasoning he uses to get there is fairly flawed.

His argument boils down to the fact that the TPP would lower import costs for brands doing business in Asia, and since Harley-Davidson sells 40% of its bikes in the Asian market, it would therefore benefit from the USA becoming a TPP signatory.

The issue of course isn't as cut-and-dry, and requires a bit of digging into what markets would become more favorable for Harley-Davidson, and where the future of the Bar & Shield brand resides. Buckle-up, because here we go.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

BSA Brand Purchased by Mahindra for $4.1 Million

10/25/2016 @ 4:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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News from across the pond indicates that the historic BSA motorcycle brand has been acquired by Indian motorcycle manufacturer Mahindra.

According to the newswires, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (through a subsidiary named Classic Legends Private Limited) acquired 100% of BSA Company Limited for the tidy price of £3.4 million, or $4.1 million (at the time of this writing).

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TVS Akula 310 Launch by End of Year, But Is It Too Late?

07/22/2016 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

TVS-Akula-310-race-bike

What you see here is the TVS Akula 310, the Indian company’s 310cc sport bike that shares a platform with the BMW G310R.

The Akula 310 isn’t likely to be seen on city streets in the United States, or even in Europe for that matter, but it gives us a glimpse of what is to come from BMW Motorrad on the small-displacement front.

As you can see, the TVS Akula 310 is quite fetching, getting a strong response from motorcyclists since its debut in February of this year.

As such, TVS is moving up the timeline on the project, with the Akula 310 likely to go into production by the end of this year, as a 2017 model (supposedly renamed as the TVS Apache RTR 300).

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Honda CBR250RR To Debut Next Week?

07/19/2016 @ 5:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

Honda-Light-Weight-Super-Sports-Concept

The reliable Indonesian news source TMC Blog is reporting that the 2017 Honda CBR250RR could debut next Monday. The news stems from Astra Honda Motor, the importer for Honda motorcycles in Indonesia, which sent out a press invite for a new Honda model that is to debut.

While an announcement like that could mean almost anything, the fact that Astra Honda Motor posted a teaser video of the Honda CBR250RR last week though gives us a pretty good hint as what to expect next week from Big Red.

TMC Blog reports that the Honda CBR250RR will sell for 60 million Indonesian rupiah, which at the current exchange rate is roughly $4,500 USD.

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Updates Coming for the 2017 KTM 390 Duke

06/13/2016 @ 3:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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One of the hottest bikes on the market since its 2013 debut, the KTM 390 Duke is seemingly set for a model refresh, with cosmetic updates and other minor technical changes coming our way.

This photo above shows the 2017 KTM 390 Duke with its new headlight, and in it you can also see some of the styling changes to the fairings and fuel tank, along with the updated switchgear and dash design.

Designed in Austria, but built in India, it doesn’t surprise us to see this photo leak coming from the Bajaj factory near Pune, India – where production has surely already started in anticipation for the next model year.

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Suzuki & Volkswagen Finalize Their Divorce

02/23/2016 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

volkswagen-tid-diesel-engine

The last we checked-in with the Suzuki/Volkswagen divorce, the German automobile maker was ordered by the London Court of International Arbitration to sell its 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer (worth $2.8 billion at the time).

That was back in September 2015, and now that ordered has finally been fulfilled, with Volkswagen completely divesting itself from Suzuki – a move that has been four years in the making.

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TVS Akula 310 – Hot, Small, Sporty, & Almost a BMW

02/08/2016 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

tvs-akula-310

The Auto Expo in India isn’t usually an event we would cover, but some interesting machines have turned up in New Delhi. The first one to grab our attention is the TVS Akula 310.

On its own right, the TVS Akula 310 is a sharp looking small-displacement machine, especially when its dripping in carbon fiber (Daddy like). Beneath the skin though, the Akula 310 is exactly the same as the BMW G310R sport bike, which is pretty interesting.

This is because TVS and BMW Motorrad collaborated to bring both models to market; and as such, the Akula 310 gives us an idea of where BMW could be headed next with its 300cc class offering.

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Report: KTM 390 Adventure Begins Testing in India

06/18/2015 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

ktm-390-adventure-photoshop

It’s been a while since we heard about the KTM 390 Adventure, the Austrian company’s third installment to its built-in-India small-displacement motorcycle lineup.

Based off the KTM 390 Duke, the Adventure model has been a long-time coming, ever since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer lit it slip that the dual-sport would be coming, two and a half years ago.

It seems now that KTM is getting closer to production, as the folks at CarTrade are reporting that two test models of the KTM 390 Adventure (codenamed KT22) have been sent to India for R&D, presumably as a prelude to Bajaj beginning production on the budget-friednly machines.

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Report: Hero HX250R Launch Pushed Back Because of EBR

06/01/2015 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler75 COMMENTS

hero-hrx-250r

Word out of India is that the Hero HX250R, the quarter-liter sport bike that Erik Buell Racing helped design, will not be arriving later this year, as was originally intended. Rumors instead suggest that the HX250R will debut in 2016.

The delay is said to be directly linked to Erik Buell Racing going into receivership earlier this year, and it’s a fair bet that the delay is due to something in the design of the HX250R.

However, we would also bet good money that Hero realized there was no point in releasing a North American bound model without a North American distributor with which to sell it.

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