Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

Fund This Documentary: “It’s Something Inside”

02/24/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Last month, our friend John Shofner (you may have seen some of his work on A&R already) sent us a link to a project he was working on, and we couldn’t wait for it to become a reality.

So finally, we can talk about the full-length documentary, It’s Something Inside, that Shofner Films hopes to produce, which will tell the story behind America’s two-wheeled petrol racing culture.

To help raise the $400,000 that the It’s Something Inside project will need to produce the film, John has turned to the crowd-sourcing platform of Kickstarter.

If funded (your contributions only get collected if John meets his fundraising goal), and once completed, Shofner Films will then pitch the film to various film festivals, with the hope of ultimately getting a theater or TV deal for the film.

As you can tell from the trailer above, and the stills after the jump, John has a great photographic eye; and his previous work, including a documentary of the karting scene, shows his immense talent in storytelling as well.

We are pretty pumped to see this project go forward, and if you are too, we hope you will contribute some money towards his Kickstarter fund. Count us in for a couple bucks John!

Some Thoughts on Crowdfunding Vehicle Concepts

01/09/2014 @ 10:48 am, by Aakash Desai3 COMMENTS

Lit-Motors-Kubo

Bay Area start-up Lit Motors specializes in creative vehicle concepts. Their most recent project, the Kubo, takes the urban-utility concept in a direction that emphasizes low center of gravity luggage carry, ease of portage, and accommodative ergonomics.

The folks at Lit call it a “pickup truck on two wheels” and by setting the rider further back on the chassis, nearly over the rear wheel, the Kubo creates a centrally located void in the chassis that serves as the cargo holding bay.

The idea is that with additional accessories such as straps, tie-downs, netting and bungee cords, people will be able to easily and effectively transport more of their stuff around town, without upsetting the balance or rideability of the machine.

On November 21st, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Kubo, aimed at raising an ambitious $300,000 in just 30 days. As many of you problem know, Kickstarter is an online fundraising platform designed allow individual consumers  the chance to invest money in people and ideas that they believe in. If the goal is not met, then the team behind the idea or project gets nothing.

With the Kubo, as the weeks progressed, it became clear that the campaign was not going to meet its goals.  By December 21st, Lit had only managed to raise $57k with 166 backers.

The recent failure of Lit Motors to meet their Kickstarter goal, raises big questions about how effective Kickstarter can be for small businesses creating big products.

Good Idea: BEARTek Bluetooth Motorcycle Gloves

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

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.

Help Send Photographer Dan Lo to the Isle of Man TT

04/03/2012 @ 9:05 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Our good friend Dan Lo is trying to get to this year’s Isle of Man TT, hoping to cover Guy Martin’s first TT race win. Many of you have already enjoyed Dan’s work, as he has been our featured photographer for the last two photos of the week (here & here). Creating photos that have always been a stark contrast to the norm, I first met Dan way back in the early days of Asphalt & Rubber, where his truly unique style of photography was the first professional work to grace this site’s pages.

A young and humble man, Dan can barely get to his seat at any given media center, as a bevy of journalists and photographers always greet him upon his entry to the room. Dan is popular with the riders too, which is probably why Ben Bostrom wrote the prologue to Dan’s book: American Superbike X, a collection of AMA Pro Racing photos from the 2011 season — Elena Myers wrote the epilogue by the way. If you haven’t done so, you should pick up a copy of his book. I’m not here typing to plug Dan’s photojournal, though I am here to solicit some Kickstarter support to get Dan on the Isle of Man, and bring his unique skill set to recording the TT.