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.

Is The Honda RC213V-S Really Your Dream Bike?

08/13/2015 @ 3:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler92 COMMENTS

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Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul.

From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears.

The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S – debuting a machine that ticked all the right objective boxes, but failed the most subjective of all tests: my lustful desire to own it.

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Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

06/25/2015 @ 4:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

golf-ball-mowed-green

Helmets are a rather stagnant segment of the motorcycle industry, with even the more “innovative” designs being evolutions to the basic principles of crash helmets, rather a revolutions.

Helmets like 6D and Bell’s Moto-9 Carbon Flex use two different variable techniques to lessen hard and soft impact types.

Companies like Skully and Reevu aim to add more visual features to helmets, while major brands like AGV, Arai, and Shoei are ever improving their designs for better customer fit, whether it be through additional helmet models, or rethinking how the helmet fits to the rider’s head.

All of these improvements are good for us motorcyclists, of course, yet they are all based on the same basic principles of a hard protective shell, lined with some sort of impact absorbing material.

In fact, the only truly revolutionary helmet design we have seen, comes from the bicycle sector, and involves advanced airbag technology. In 50 years, we’ll be wearing these helmets (or not wearing them, as the case may be). But until then, the basic design continues to evolve.

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Skully Helmets Pushes Back Delivery to December 2015

05/21/2015 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

SKULLY-logo-vaporware

Helmet startup Skully Helmets, the San Francisco based company that is building a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display system, has quietly pushed back its delivery to customers to December 2015.

Initial hopes from the company were to have product in the hands of consumers by the end of 2014, with that date being solidified to May 2015 once the company started its Indiegogo-powered pre-order campaign.

Anyone in the industry could have told you that was pie-in-the-sky forecasting though, as finished models were not even available at the start of the campaign, let alone other factors like certification, production, and distribution.

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Do You Have “Keyless” Ignition on Your Bike? Is It Safe?

05/05/2015 @ 10:18 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

faraday-ball

Technology on motorcycles is a double-edged sword, it bring us new features to amazing machines, like the Yamaha YZF-R1 and its slide control, but it can also, as seen by this tale.

Taking a cue from the car world, some motorcycle manufacturers have taken to supplying motorcycle owners with wireless key systems, where you only need to have the key on your person in order to start a motorcycle (note: I am not talking about the key systems where you press a button to start or unlock a vehicle).

The process to make this work is simple, as the key fob has an RFID implanted inside it, and when it comes into proximity of the motorcycle, a reader grabs the signal from the key, which has a special code that unlocks the bike and allows it start and be operated.

It’s a complex process that saves you five seconds in looking for your key. That’s called progress.

The problem of course is that thieves are becoming increasingly savvy to these changes in technology, and if OEMs aren’t careful, they can open-up consumers to a world of trouble.

In the case of wireless keys, a new work-around has been made that boosts the signal of the RFID reader, and thus makes it easier for a thief to hijack your ride.

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

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

terminator-3-salvation-motorcycle

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.”

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

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

tasty-cow

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.

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When Did Apple’s Siri Turn into My Mother?

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

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.

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Californians, Apply Now for Your Self-Driving Car License

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

google-autonomous-car

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.

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Honda’s Forgotten “Frameless” Chassis Design Patent

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

Honda-motorcycle-monocoque-chassis-design-patent

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.

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Inoveli – A New Way to Throttle?

01/22/2014 @ 4:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

Inoveli-thumb-throttle

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.

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