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.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Stoner and Rossi Will Ride at Goodwood Festival of Speed

03/31/2015 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Aside from on-track action that comes during your typical Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS), it might be worth stopping by the world’s most famous driveway to see Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi on the same piece of tarmac once again.

That’s right, Lord March has invited both Rossi and Stoner to his mansion to ride a few bikes and to drive a few cars. Rossi will be participating on behalf of Yamaha Motor, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary of business; meanwhile Casey Stoner will ride a prototype Honda MotoGP bike, likely the Honda RC213V-S consumer halo bike.

The MotoGP rivals are part of a larger group of GP Champions who will be attending the FoS, the list including John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, and Freddie Spencer.

The New R1 Would Look Hot in Kenny Roberts Livery

03/20/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 LE livery, which was a yellow, black, and white homage to Kenny Roberts Sr., is perhaps the greatest livery ever to adorn an R1, straight from the Yamaha factory.

Whether you are a loyal subject of King Kenny, or you just enjoy the fetching, yet simple, racing design, the Roberts livery is a treasure to see in any form — but especially so at speed.

Giving us a glimpse as to what the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 would look like with such a limited edition paint scheme, Oberdan Bezzi has once again whet our appetite ahead of a weekend full of riding.

And for you Giacomo Agostini fans, there is something special waiting for you after the jump as well. Enjoy!

motoDNA: The Global Dirt Track Resurgence

02/11/2015 @ 12:41 pm, by Mark McVeigh3 COMMENTS

Jared-Mees

When AMA dirt tracker Kenny Roberts arrived on the European 500 Grand Prix scene in 1978, road racing would never be the same. Not only did Roberts win the 500 GP title in his rookie year, as Marc Marquez did in 2013, but he also brought with him a radically new style derived from dirt track in the USA.

Robert’s style was of course, immediately copied by his rivals, much like Marquez’s dynamic style is being imitated today. KR, and the Americans that followed him, embraced dirt track lines, sacrificing entry speed, picking the bike up early and launching out of the corner, rear wheel spinning and handlebars crossed up.

Putting the bike sideways with the rear wheel 100mm out of line, steering with the rear wheel was the new way to ride. Dirt trackers then pretty much dominated 500 Grand Prix for nearly two decades between Americans: Roberts, Spencer, Lawson, Rainey, Schwantz and the Aussies: Gardner and Doohan.

Kenny Roberts Sr. Working on Possible GP Team Entry

08/19/2013 @ 9:12 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Talking to MotoGP.com this weekend at the Indianapolis GP, Kenny Roberts Sr. admitted to the website that he is working on putting together a new GP program for the 2014 or 2015 season — though was quick to caution against the project’s full-fruition.

“We’re working on it. And we’re working on something quite big – it’s going to happen or it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be almost there. When we come back we’ll come back in a big way! And if you don’t see me, you’ll know we didn’t get it done,” said King Kenny.

Friday Summary at Indianapolis: The New King Kenny, Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, & Returning Next Year?

08/17/2013 @ 6:53 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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There’s something about America. Especially if you’re name is Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda Rookie led both sessions on the opening day of the Indianapolis Grand Prix (the last one? Too early to say) going quickest both in the tricky morning, when there was very little grip, and in the afternoon, once the bikes had laid down some rubber. Marquez has won both US rounds so far, dominating at Austin and winning comfortably at Laguna Seca, and he has picked up at Indy where he left off before the summer break.

Unsurprisingly, the parallels with Kenny Roberts are starting to be made, the only other rider to become world champion as a rookie. Those parallels are unfair yet perfectly valid: both men exceeded expectations and raised the bar, shaking up the established order with a radical new riding style. Yet Roberts and Marquez also came from totally different backgrounds: Kenny Roberts had grown up racing dirt track, switched to road racing and then came to Europe to win his the championship at the first attempt, on tracks he had never seen before.

Video: Guy & Thomas Visit Valentino Rossi’s Ranch

07/23/2013 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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It’s hard to out-do King Kenny, the godfather of Ameircan road racing, but Valentino Rossi is certainly making a go at it. For those that haven’t been to Roberts’ ranch out in Modesto, California, the three-time GP Champion and AMA Grand Slam winner has a very lovely flat-track course in his backyard, where he teaches the rich, and coaches the fast.

Well, the idea must have struck a chord with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, as The Doctor has built his own race course outside of his home town of Tavullia, Italy. Rossi’s proving ground isn’t just some ordinary oval though, and instead is an undulating circuit that can be configured a multitude of ways.

Playing host to fellow Dainese-sponsored riders Guy Martin (of Isle of Man TT road racing fame) and Thomas Chareyre (the current Supermoto World Champion), Rossi and friends spent a day riding together while the cameras were rolling. This is how the super-rich and super-fast spend their weekends. It’s a good life.

Kenny Roberts Sr. Leaves AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

07/13/2012 @ 4:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Cycle News is reporting that Kenny Roberts Sr., the Godfather of American Road Racing, is leaving the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, after getting wind that Dave Despain and Dick Mann had made similar gestures regarding their status with the Hall of Fame. The blowout comes after Derek “Nobby” Clark was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, only to have his name withdrawn from the organization’s list of distinguished members. The reason given by the AMA was that there was an error in the balloting process for submitting Clark’s name to the voting ballot, though some outside the AMA say the reason Clark was removed was because of his criminal record, or for other reasons.

Working on the race bikes of motorcycling greats like Kenny Roberts Sr., Giacomo Agostini, and Mike Hailwood, the support for Clark has been resounding in the old-guard of American motorcycling, which is where the resignations from Despain and Mann come into play. This of course has created a cascade effect, where now King Kenny has also voiced his desire to leave the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Others are sure to follow suit with King Kenny after the delicious quote he gave Cycle News: “I just emailed Chris Carter and asked him where I send my shit back. I don’t get it. If Dick Mann is resigning from the Hall of Fame, I don’t need to be in it. It’s bad that it has to come to this, but what are you going to do. If Nobby doesn’t deserve to be in there, nobody does.”

Like everything with the AMA, the issue with inducting Clark into the Hall of Fame is a convoluted one at best, as it shows an interesting dynamic to the old-boy network that is alive and well within the American motorcycle community. On the issue at hand, Roadracing World published an interesting play-by-play of what happened behind the scenes regarding Nobby’s induction, balloting, and removal, which included some quotes from Superbikeplanet‘s Dean Adams.

Adams, who sits on the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame’s Roadrace Committee, has his own interesting dissection of what transpired, which includes his own analysis of the movings and shakings inside the AMA and the AMA Hall of Fame. It paints a disturbing picture of either wanton or willful negligence as to how the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame operates, as well as how the inner-cliques of the industry work with and against each other.

An Addendum to Valentino Rossi’s Options for the Future

04/30/2012 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

If you haven’t already read David Emmett’s excellent analysis of Valentino Rossi’s options in MotoGP, you owe it to your MotoGP-loving self to sit down and digest David’s thorough game theory walk-through on the nine-time World Champion’s prospects in the premier class.

David’s analysis is spot-on, and approaches the impending 2012 mega silly season from a logical point-of-view (for those who aren’t keeping track, virtually every contract in MotoGP is up for renewal this year). I don’t disagree with any point David has penned, but I wanted to add one line-item to his analysis: some discussion about Rossi’s post-motorcycle racing career, and how it influences The Doctor’s choices this coming contract renewal period.

Never say never, but few are expecting Valentino Rossi to hang up his spurs at the end of the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Going out on a career low-point is certainly not the Italian’s style, especially as it casts a particularly dark shadow on a career that has enjoyed the bright-light superlative of “Greatest of All Time” from some of motorcycling’s most knowledgeable sources.

Hoping to cast that phrase with an underlined typeface, and not with an interrogatory question mark, there is sufficient evidence to believe that Rossi will want to end his career in a way that will leave no doubt about the nine-time World Champion’s abilities. The question of course is how those final seasons will play out, and who they will be with.

Kenny Roberts Puts Two KR Proton GP Bikes Up for Auction

04/19/2012 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Last month I was fortunate enough to stop by the ranch of one Kenny Roberts Sr., and got to look at the Grandfather to American Roadracing’s personal motorcycle collection. Comprised of nearly a dozen KR Proton MotoGP machines, amongst the nearly forty bikes in the collection, King Kenny easily has the quintessential motorcycle dream garage — and I haven’t even gotten to mentioning the stacks of race leathers, helmets, trophies, and other racing memorabilia that line the walls and cover the tables in the small two-wheeled gallery.

Making some space in his collection, Kenny Roberts Sr. has put four race bikes from the Team KR racing heritage up on the auction block, two of which are KR Proton GP machines. The first bike up for grabs is a KR Proton KR3 (above) that was ridden by Nobuatsu Aoki, which raced in the 2001 500GP Championship and features a two-stroke V3 motor. Also offering a MotoGP-era four-stroke machine, King Kenny has added his KR Proton KRV5 XM2 (below), which was ridden by his youngest son, Kurtis Roberts, in the 2004 MotoGP Championship, and features a proprietary five-cylinder motor.

“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.