Ride in Peace, Author Robert Pirsig

I first heard of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR600F2. I was stuck in the middle of Dunsmuir, California with a bad rectifier/regulator (a common trouble-spot on that model bike), and a passerby recommended the title. I think they referred the book out of naiveté its content, but obviously the novel, despite its title, would do little to help my immediate problem with my Honda, though it was a good read about some general philosophic ideas, which I could chew-on after I got my CBR bumped-started and back on the road again. Undoubtedly, you have likely heard of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

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.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

11/11/2014 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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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. The styling of the H2R was certainly…eye-catching…with all the winglets and dramatic lines, the H2 street bike is only slightly watered-down from that lurid design.

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Kawasaki Ninja H2 – The Ultimate Street Bike?

11/04/2014 @ 2:22 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

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The Kawasaki Ninja H2 street bike has finally debuted at the EICMA show, giving motorcycle fans a glimpse at the road-going counterpart to the Kawasaki Ninja H2R track-only machine. Based around the same 998cc supercharged inline-four engine, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 makes an astonishing 207 hp with ram air, 197hp without. For reference, the Ninja H2R makes 305hp, without ram-air.

Kawasaki has designed its supercharger system to have two-step gear-ratio, allowing for maximum boost and low and high engine speeds, and the supercharger impeller reaches 130,000 rpm when the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is at its 14,000 rpm redline. Peak torque is 98 lbs•ft, at 10,500 rpm, with the supercharger primarily helping to broaden the powerband for better street riding.

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Is This How Much the Kawasaki Ninja H2R Will Cost? Nope.

10/14/2014 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It has certainly been interesting to see the buzz around the Kawasaki Ninja H2 these past few weeks, especially as everyone tries to cash in on the supercharged hype-machine that Kawasaki has been running.

First we saw Motorcycle.com just create a story out of thin air, to help its owner VerticalScope promote a new web property. That was…uhh…the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen while in this industry, not to mention just sloppy journalism. Now lately we have seen a supposed dealer invoice for the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R, with a price tag just north of $60,000.

Many publications have latched onto that price point — which isn’t the craziest conclusion to come to, considering that the H2R is Kawasaki’s halo-bike project, and will likely cost a pretty penny — though with just a quick glance, we can see that the alleged paperwork has clearly been a work of Photoshop, and not inside information.

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LEAKED: First Image of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 Street Bike

10/05/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Just last week the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, KHI’s supercharged track-only 300hp beast of a hyperbike, debuted at INTERMOT. The reception of the H2R was astounding, and Kawasaki has certainly laid down the gauntlet with the design, philosophy, and execution of its latest Ninja.

Kawasaki’s test riders are already reporting on social media speeds over 210 mph, and we eagerly await Kawasaki’s street-legal Ninja H2.

Set to debut at the AIMExpo in two weeks’ time, it seems the first image of the machine has leaked ahead of schedule. Caught in what looks like an early release of Kawasaki’s next teaser video, we can make out the lines of the Ninja H2 street bike.

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OMG: Leaked Hi-Res Photos of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

09/29/2014 @ 8:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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In five hours the Kawasaki Ninja H2 will officially debut at INTERMOT…of course, the internet waits for no motorbike. In addition to the first leaked photo we brought you, we now have a bevy of high-resolution images of the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, the racing sibling to the H2.

Several sites now are tipping the Kawasaki Ninja H2R as making 300 horsepower from its 998cc inline-four engine, a number that is achieved by the H2 & H2R’s centrifugal supercharger. That figure is much larger than some publications were reporting from their “sources” inside Kawasaki — or were just fabricating wholesale to get pageviews.

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LEAKED: Here is the First Photo of the Kawasaki Ninja H2

09/29/2014 @ 11:29 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Our INTERMOT coverage is in full-swing today, and we bring you the first photo of the Kawasaki Ninja H2. Showing more clearly the wings we spotted in Kawasaki’s last video, we can see now the extent that the Japanese company has gone to in making the H2 more aerodynamic.

Our sources tell us this the “race” version of the supercharged Ninja H2, though what it’s racing, we are not sure — our bets are on either land speed records at Bonneville or the Millennium Falcon.

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The Kawasaki Ninja H2 Has…Wings??!

09/26/2014 @ 12:38 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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While some publications have been outright fabricating information about the new Kawasaki H2 to get eyeballs and clicks, we have been trying to filter Kawasaki’s massive marketing campaign, so you only get the most distilled information. That’s sort of our mantra here at Asphalt & Rubber.

So, you will forgive us then for showing you yet another teaser video on the H2, but we think there is an interesting development here. The ninth installment thus far, Kawasaki is focusing on the aerodynamics of the hyperbike, and from what we can see, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 comes equipped with aerodynamic wings.

The winglets look a lot like those found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP10, which served more to help flow air across the very hot V4 engine, rather than to provide any sort of downforce. What Kawasaki is using them for, that’s up for debate.

One shot seems to show the H2’s mirrors, and their aerodynamic shape, while the other two shots have us guessing. One is clearly a winglet, possibly near the front of the machine, which would help pull the air around the rider (especially around the legs) more effectively.

The third shot (actually the first in the video), look like a rear spoiler/diffuser to us, but we’d love to hear your theories in the comments section.

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The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Seen in This Industry

09/18/2014 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler59 COMMENTS

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I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different.

This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. To give us proof of that assertion, they included in the emails links to a Facebook page for a new web forum for the H2, which is where the leak apparently occurred.

A quick check on our massive RSS feed (roughly 600 publications now) showed the viral story had only been picked up by one other publication, Motorcycle.com. MO ran the story with the headline “Inside Info About Kawasaki’s Radical H2 Sportbike?” — which had been written by the ever loveable “Motorcycle.com Staff” author, and qualified with the profession’s ubiquitous “?” phrasing.

Our friends at MO certainly do a bit of traffic (I say that with sincerity), though I normally wouldn’t use a single publication covering a story as an indication of that story going viral, but ok whatever…hyperbole is part of the game.

Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

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A Brief Glimpse of the Kawasaki H2 in Action

09/16/2014 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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At the pace Kawasaki is going, it looks to be a long, painful, drawn-out debut for the Kawasaki H2. We’re six videos in now, and not much about the supercharged sport bike has been revealed. Sure, we’ve heard the sound of the bike’s centrifugal supercharger and inline-four engine, and we have gotten a glimpse at the H2’s lines, but our appetite desires more.

Today won’t be that satiation, though we do get to “see” the Kawasaki H2 for the first time…as it does triple-figures past the camera. Once again, Kawasaki takes off another piece of clothing in this two-wheeled burlesque show, yet manages not to show us anything worth the excitement.

We will likely just have to wait until September 28th, when the Kawasaki H2 officially breaks cover, ahead of the INTERMOT show.

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The Most Important Thing about the Kawasaki H2?

09/11/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The supercharged Kawasaki H2 teasers continue to come from Team Green, though none since the “sound video” have really given anything away about the new sport bike. Today’s video, the fifth installment, doesn’t really whet our appetite either, though we thought we’d share it for one good reason, the Kawasaki River Mark logo.

There is something fundamental that motorcycle enthusiasts have to understand about the Japanese manufacturers, and that is the fact that their motorcycle business constitutes a very small portion of the companies’ overall operations and incomes.

Historically, the motorcycle divisions of the Big Four have been the epicenter for corporate bragging between these Japanese conglomerates — they told all of Japan, “look what we can do.”

In the case of Kawasaki, it is truly only a small part of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which builds ships, heavy equipment, aerospace parts, trains, and even parts for nuclear power plants. There aren’t too many industries where Kawasaki doesn’t have an interest, and its motorcycle division is where it shows off its technological prowess…at least, that’s how it used to be.

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