Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Production Resumes at Honda’s Kumamoto Factory

06/14/2016 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Honda-Kumamoto-Factory

After seeing the region devastated by earthquakes, the Honda factory in the Kumamoto Prefecture is slowly coming back online. The Kumamoto factory (seen above, before the earthquake) has been offline since April 14th, though resumed minor operations on May 6th.

Honda says it has finally completed removal of debris from its most affected facilities; and as of June 6th, the company has partly resumed production of its main motorcycle models.

This is of particular note for American motorcyclists, as it means that Honda can once again being producing the Honda Africa Twin adventure-tourer, which was mid-production for the US market at the time of the earthquakes.

Nicky Hayden Confirmed to Race at the Suzuka 8-Hour

06/09/2016 @ 10:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

World-Superbike-Phillip-Island-test-Steve-English-25

The Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race is more than just a stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it is the battle ground for bragging rights between the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers.

It is not uncommon to see the Big Four stacking their factory-backed teams with their top talent from MotoGP, World Superbike, and other domestic series, in addition to their local Suzuka experts. This year will be no different.

For Honda, this means recruiting its factory WSBK boys. Yes, Nicky Hayden (along with Michael van der Mark) will join Takumi Takahashi on the factory-backed MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team at the 2016 Suzuka 8-Hour. Boom goes the dynamite.

What the Honda Kumamoto Factory Closure Means for You

05/09/2016 @ 5:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Honda-Kumamoto-Factory

After devastating tremors in the region, Honda’s Kumamoto factory, as well as the facilities of their nearby suppliers, were closed for equipment and structural repairs.

Making progress on those repairs, Honda partially re-opened its Kumamoto facility two weeks ago, though the factory’s production capabilities currently remain limited.

Now, the latest word from Honda is that Kumamoto will be back to full capacity by mid-August of this year, though it goes without saying that the production time will affect the rollout of several Honda machines.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

04/25/2016 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Honda-Grom-racing-HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it.

That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well.

In fact, the Honda Grom has been so successful, now Kawasaki has its own version of the pocket-sized machine coming to the US, and we doubt that they are the last manufacturer to do so.

Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs.

To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

04/18/2016 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

earthquake-seismograph

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days.

In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country.

If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016).

Mugen Shinden Go Debuts in Japan with More Power

03/25/2016 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-Go-01

The Mugen Shinden Go has officially dropped in Japan, showing us the Japanese outfit’s fifth evolution of the Isle of Man TT electric superbike.

As we reported earlier, the Shinden Go comes with obvious changes to the fairing design, though likely there are further enhancements underneath its skin.

To our eye, the Shinden Go looks to have smaller frontal cross-section than bikes of the past, and there are noticeable changes to the race bike’s carbon fiber chassis, which now looks to be of a monocoque design. The carbon fiber swingarm design has also been changed.

Additionally, Mugen says that the rear suspension is a “cross link rocker” design, which has been developed specifically for the Shinden Go.

Of course, the biggest change people will be talking about is the 10kW power increase, which brings the Mugen Shinden Go’s peak horsepower figure up to 161hp. Weight remains at 550 lbs, with peak torque down to 154 lbs•ft (from 162.24 lbs•ft).

Mugen Shinden Go Caught Testing in Japan

03/21/2016 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2016-Mugen-Shinden-Go-Isle-of-Man-TT-electric-superbike-Tsukuba-Circuit

The Isle of Man TT is still two months away, but Team Mugen is looking ready to make it a three-peat in the TT Zero electric race. Mugen’s 2016 bike is called the Shinden Go, and while “go” might be Japanese for “five” the name is very appropriate for the electric superbike.

Many expect Mugen to break the 120 mph lap barrier at the Isle of Man TT, especially since John McGuinness came extremely close to the mark last year, with a 119.279 mph lap.

Caught testing in Japan this month, here are our first glimpses of the Mugen Shinden Go, with test rider Hikaru Miyagi on-board at the Tsukuba Circuit (above) and Sodegaura Forest Raceway (photos after the jump).

Honda EV-Cub Entering Mass Production in Two Years

02/24/2016 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

EV-Cub Concept

It is not with great surprise that we learn today that the Honda EV-Cub is coming to market within the next two years. The news comes from Honda President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who said as much during his press conference today in Japan.

The Honda EV-Cub is of course the electric version of Honda’s uber-popular Honda Super Cub motorcycle, which is the best selling motorcycle of all time (roughly 87 million units were sold in 2014 since its inception in 1958).

The Honda Super Cub looks also to be getting an overhaul, with a new concept design making the rounds last year at the major trade shows.

For the Honda EV-Cub though, the electric scooter is part of a larger problem in urban transportation, especially in Asian countries where the rapid rise in the local economies is seeing more and more people on the roadways.

Mugen Confirms “Shinden Go” for 2016 Isle of Man TT

01/29/2016 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Mugen-Shinden-Go-logo

Development for properly fast electric racing motorcycles has fallen onto the shoulders of one brand: Team Mugen, and the Japanese firm has confirmed that it will continue to push boundaries at the Isle of Man TT this year.

Confirming this week that it would race the 2016 Isle of Man TT, in the SES TT Zero electric race, Mugen also announced the return of its two-rider team of John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.

In addition to that news, Mugen formerly divulged the fifth edition of its electric superbike, called the Shinden Go  – in case you haven’t caught onto Mugen’s naming scheme, “go” is “five” in Japanese.

See How the Honda RC213V-S Is Painstakingly Built

01/12/2016 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2015-Honda-RC213V-S-prototype-02

Whatever your thoughts are on the Honda RC213V-S, you have to appreciate the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into the $184,000 MotoGP bike with lights.

With just over 200 units being made, Honda had little incentive to design the RC213V-S for mass production, opting instead to make each unit by hand, with a small team of highly skilled builders.

There is something about that process that gets lost in description, so we are fortunate that Honda Hong Kong released a video (after the jump) that shows the Honda RC213V-S build team hard at work.

A couple mech-geek things of note: at 1:32, the jig used to bring the chassis pieces together for welding; at 1:50, the one-off shaping of the sheet metal for the headstock; at 2:12, how virtually ever metal piece is hand-welded. There is plenty here to geek-out over, enjoy!