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.

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law – Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles?

08/14/2014 @ 11:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law   Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles? terminator 3 salvation motorcycle 635x423

No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”

In the Future, You’ll Wear Leathers That Are Grown in a Vat

06/27/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

In the Future, Youll Wear Leathers That Are Grown in a Vat tasty cow 635x425

A lot of things will change in the future. Cars will drive themselves. Motorcyclists won’t wear helmets (as we know them), and your leather jacket will be grown in a vat…at least, that’s what a new company named Modern Meadow hopes. Having just received $10 million in Series A funding, the New York-based company hopes to change the way we interact with our beloved bovines.

Getting its roots from the bio-technology sector’s research into “bioprinting” organs in a petri dish, Modern Meadow is looking for consumer-level applications to this still young technology, which right now focus on creating grown-in-the-laboratory beef and leather.

Obviously the FDA has a few things to say about creating food products from bioprinting, so Modern Meadow’s first foray will be into creating real leather with stem cells.

When Did Apple’s Siri Turn into My Mother?

06/17/2014 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

When Did Apples Siri Turn into My Mother? apple siri motorcycle question response crop

Not too long ago I had to replace the clutch on my track bike, as I had a track day rapidly approaching that weekend. Driving around to get the parts I needed, I turned to Siri on my iPhone for help in finding a nearby Yamaha dealer, as I knew that the clutch plates would need to be ordered that day (with only a couple hours left in the work day) and overnighted to me, if I was to get my R1 ready in time.

A couple verbal commands later (along with a couple chuckles over how Siri pronounces “Yamaha”), and something funny happened. Siri decided to give me a little life advice on my two-wheeled inclinations, with a “now, you be careful on that thing” comment.

Californians, Apply Now for Your Self-Driving Car License

05/28/2014 @ 1:04 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Californians, Apply Now for Your Self Driving Car License google autonomous car 635x423

Californian motorists should brace themselves, as the Golden State is poised to let autonomous vehicles onto its roadways, en masse. Announcing that it will begin taking applications for driverless vehicle licenses starting in July, California will begin granting autonomous vehicles access to its roads in September of this year.

The decision is part of a larger nationwide push for autonomous vehicles, a topic we have covered at length here on Asphalt & Rubber, and accordingly something that the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) have finally taken an interest in participating on an advisory level.

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.

Inoveli – A New Way to Throttle?

01/22/2014 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

Inoveli   A New Way to Throttle? Inoveli thumb throttle 635x423

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with the twist-grip throttle design found on motorcycles, after all millions of motorcyclists each year manage to use this simple design with great efficacy.

This, however, does not mean that the current iteration of throttle design is perfect for its application; after all each time you twist the throttle, you are compromising the angle of your wrist in relation to the handlebar. Maybe it is time for another way?

That is the thought process behind the Inoveli throttle concept. Using a rider’s thumb, instead of their wrist, the Inoveli throttle allows one to keep a constant grip on the handlebar throughout the entire throttle range of motion, which translates into less rider fatigue and more rider safety.

Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design

08/12/2013 @ 10:58 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

Erik Buell Racing Patents Hybrid Motorcycle Design Erik Buell Racing hybrid motorcycle patent 02 635x455

It seems Erik Buell Racing has been thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, as the company from East Troy had filed and received a patent for a hybrid drive motorcycle design.

There is nothing particularly astonishing about EBR’s patent, after all with hybrids being all the rage in the four-wheeled world, it was obviously only a matter of time before that same trend transitioned to motorcycles as well.

However, what is interesting about Erik Buell Racing’s patent is that it doesn’t set forth the Prius-inspired setup that you would expect, where an electric motor takes over or assists an internal combustion engine.

Instead, EBR’s setup is more like the Chevy Volt, with a small petrol-fueled generator being on-board to charge the bike’s batteries once they have been depleted by the electric motor, and thus killing the range anxiety that is prevalent in current EV bike designs.

Taylormade Carbon2 – Life Outside the Moto2 Box

07/10/2013 @ 7:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Taylormade Carbon2   Life Outside the Moto2 Box Taylormade Carbon2 moto2 race bike 01 635x423

David spent some lines of text yesterday talking about the lack of chassis innovation in the Moto2 Championship — a series whose spec-engine rules were supposed to be a playground for chassis engineers. As we know now, Moto2 has become a race of common denominators, with twin-spar aluminum frames ruling the day.

Company’s like Vyrus have threatened to enter Moto2 with their very stylish Vyrus 986 M2 race bike, with its hub-center steering design; but as David pointed out, the work involved to train racers for the new inputs these machines provide is perhaps the bigger boulder to carry when compared to developing the motorcycles themselves.

That doesn’t mean that innovation is lacking though, as we bring you another intriguing design, this time one built right here in sunny California: the Taylormade Carbon2.

Where’s the Innovation? Why Moto2 Spurs Identikit Bikes

07/09/2013 @ 1:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Wheres the Innovation? Why Moto2 Spurs Identikit Bikes elf honda no bodywork 635x425

After the initial disappointment at the death of the 250cc two strokes, the advent of the Moto2 class raised hopes that Grand Prix racing would enter a new era of chassis innovation, as the teams spent the money saved on engine development on exploring novel solutions to the problem of hustling a motorcycle around a circuit is the shortest time possible.

The first set of designs unveiled did little to feed that hope, with most bikes being of the aluminium twin beam variety which is standard in most sports and racing machinery, with a couple of tubular trellis frames thrown in for good measure.

Even that variety did not last. The trellis frames were the first to go – mostly as a result of the extra weight the design created – and the number of chassis manufacturers dropped from 13 in the first year to 6 in 2013.

Even that figure gives an inflated picture of the variety in the paddock: 28 out of the 32 permanent entries form Moto2 this year use either the Kalex, Suter or Speed Up chassis. The bikes vary in stiffness, in aerodynamic detail and in aesthetics, but other than that, they are virtually identical.

So why is there no real innovation in the Moto2 paddock – or MotoGP or Moto3, for that matter? The answer is simple, and has been discussed here many times before. The attitude which characterizes the paddock in technical terms is not one of the fearless pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

It is not a hotbed of blue sky thinking and adventurous engineering. It is a place of conservative evolution, of cautious refinement, where proven concepts are polished to as near perfection as possible.

Good Idea: BEARTek Bluetooth Motorcycle Gloves

12/03/2012 @ 9:45 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Good Idea: BEARTek Bluetooth Motorcycle Gloves BEARtek bluetooth motorcycle glove

Having used a number of bluetooth headsets over the years, I can tell you that I generally loathe the technology. For starters, it usually means an add-on item that involves wires snaking around my head and neck, with some sort of cumbersome box precariously latched to the side of my helmet (or worse, permanently affixed). Over the past decade, the technology has gotten better, especially with the popularity and compatibility of bluetooth devices, but I have yet to see an elegant solution in this space. Most of this boils down to the UX.

With leather riding gloves, hopelessly small buttons become impossible to manage, and heaven forbid I am wearing thicker winter gloves. Voice-activated controls are sketchy as well, especially when on a revving motorcycle, and somehow my audible commands to change an MP3 track have me instead accidentally calling ex-girl friend, which only leads to more frantic fumblings for the right button/command combination — keep in mind, this is all while riding a motorcycle at speed on a freeway, an endeavor already with its own set of perils.

At this point in time, I have pretty much given up on a good integrated solution. Established manufacturers don’t seem to be answering the call (pun intended) by upgrading their offerings to keep pace with technology, and add-on systems are still cumbersome and inelegant solutions. Yet, I still have the desire for intercity rides where I can listen to turn-by-turn directions, and long highway treks where my Pandora stations could make the miles pass a little quicker.

One small company is helping me keep the faith a this point, as the motorcycle gloves from BEARTek are showing some promise. Devising a glove-based bluetooth controlling system, BEARTek has devised a clever way of controlling one’s smartphone while on a motorcycle, making at least part of the connected-rider equation look promising. I have some business notes though…of course.