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.

Uh-Oh BMW, KTM Had Its Best Sales-Year Ever in 2012

01/11/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

ktm-moto3

If we asked you which Germanic company was the largest motorcycle brand by volume, you would likely guess BMW Motorrad…and you would be wrong. Snap! Displacing the venerable brand from Bavaria, which set its own sales record, KTM’s 2012 sales year of 107,142 units has handed the Austrian brand the distinction of being the best-selling Germanic brand worldwide (by a margin of less than 1,000 machines).

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Rumor: KTM 375 Duke – A V-Twin Learner Cometh?

10/17/2012 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Diving through KTM’s 108 page annual report for 2011, the Austrian company lists a couple of interesting developments in its Research & Development section. Partnering with Bajaj on small-displacement street motorcycles, the first obvious fruit of that labor was the KTM 125 Duke, and the subsequent KTM 200 Duke that is available worldwide.

We already know that KTM plans on bringing a 300cc version of the baby Duke to North America, and the Austrian company lists displacements in this project up to 375cc, a strong signal to the final displacement of the much anticipated KTM 350 Duke.

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Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.

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KTM Sales up 22.4% in 2011 Thanks to India

02/17/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

If you want a quick synopsis of how the European motorcycle brands performed in 2011, they killed it. BMW, Ducati, Triumph, and now KTM have all reported double-digit sales growth figures for 2011, a stark contrast to the still struggling sales of Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.  Reporting a 22.4% sales increase last year, KTM made a cool €20.7 million in the process of selling its 81,200 units in 2011 (KTM sold 66,327 units in 2010).

Leading the Austrian company’s growth was the KTM 125 Duke, which has been a huge hit in India, its country of origin, but has also helped grow KTM’s market share in Europe. KTM is also reporting that its latest EXC models have helped spur sales, but we suspect it is the new small-displacement Duke, which was made with developing markets in mind, that is really responsible for the surge in sales growth. KTM says that it expects sales in Europe and North America to remain flat, while the company expects to see growth in emerging markets continue (no surprise there).

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Video: Rok Bagoroš & KTM Stop Time

11/28/2011 @ 2:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

We’ve featured Slovenian motorcycle stunter Rok Bagoroš and his KTM 125 Duke before, and we’ve talked at length about how the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer makes some of the best promo videos in the biz…needless to say, you can see where this post is headed. In the interest of time, let’s assume I’ve already written enough hyperbole about how great this video is, and also enumerated a sufficient number of points about how current motorcycle industry marketing offends me on a variety of visceral levels.

With only a few more weeks remaining in 2011, let’s instead shift the discussion and begin the countdown as to when KTM will bring a larger displacement Duke to the US market. Already building a 200cc version for select markets, KTM is set to bring a 350cc Duke to the US for the 2013 model year. That gives us roughly 350 days before the bike’s public debut (unless of course we see some “spy photos” of the machine ahead of time). If you don’t get excited about a more powerful version of what Bagoroš is riding after the jump, then check your pulse…you might be dead.

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KTM 350 Duke in 2013 – India Only?

07/13/2011 @ 8:45 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After first announcing that KTM would build a 200cc model of the new KTM 125 Duke for the Indian market, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has been quoted as saying that a larger, 350cc, model is in the works, and will debut as a 2013 model year motorcycle. It would seem that the 2012 KTM 350 Duke is also slated as an India-only model, though rumors and plans for a larger displacement Duke for the US market were banded about when the 125cc Duke launched at EICMA last year.

KTM seems set to take the 125 Duke platform as versatile bike for the global markets, matching configurations with localities. Since the 125cc format makes little sense in the United States (do you hear that Aprilia?), expect at least a 250cc version of the Duke to debut later this year, and likely a larger format (450cc?) as well for the US at a later point in time.

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Rok Bagoroš Meets the KTM 125 Duke

04/28/2011 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

We thought we had the good life here at Asphalt & Rubber, blogging in our pajamas until noon, no rent, and mom making us an endless supply of cookies. This was of course before we got an email from KTM Factory stunt rider Rok Bagoroš. The young Slovenian probably has the dream job of more than few motorcyclists. Traveling the world, riding bikes all day, and teaching Spanish cops how to wheelie are just some of the perks of his job.

Now that Bagoroš has a gig with the KTM squad, he’s taken possession of the company’s latest motorcycle, the KTM 125 Duke. Tasked with making the entry-level Duke appeal to its target market, KTM has marketed the 125 Duke mostly as a hooligan machine for teenage boys, which is like trying to sell a magnifying glass to a 14 year-old sitting on an ant hill. Enter Bagoroš with his bag of tricks, and the list of things we’d probably break trying to replicate them (getting old is tough).

Anyways…check the videos after the jump, and keep counting the days until KTM releases are larger displacement model of the new Duke to the American market.

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KTM 200 Duke Caught Testing

02/09/2011 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Is this the KTM 200 Duke? The folks at OverDrive.in were fortunate enough to encounter in Pune what looks like a pre-production KTM Duke destined for the Indian market. Taking the photo above, OverDrive wasn’t certain if this was the KTM 125 Duke that the Austrian company launched at Intermot this year, or if it was a larger displacement version that’s been rumored to be coming from the minds of Bajaj & KTM.

Luckily the guys at IndianCarsBikes.in were able to get Rajiv Bajaj on the line and ask him about the photo, and the son of the Bajaj empire confirmed that what we see here is the 200cc KTM 200 Duke that will be an India-only model. Reportedly a deal hatched between KTM and Bajaj, the Indian market will get a slightly larger version of the new Duke, which will be liquid-cooled, have DOHC, and be positioned on the premium side of the market equation.

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KTM 250 Duke in 18 Months

12/06/2010 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Perhaps our only gripe with the 2011 KTM 125 Duke (besides of course that it’s not coming to America), is the too small for American roads 125cc displacement. With no graduated licensing programs to be found, unlike our European brethren, the 125cc learner format just doesn’t seem to work in our “can travel anywhere by car” society here in the United States. Not to fret says KTM though, as a 250cc or even 300cc version of the orange pocket rocket is under development at the Austrian company.

We think 250cc/300cc would be an ideal size for blasting from stoplight to stoplight on city streets, both for new riders and veteran hooligans alike, and it won’t take much to place the outwardly similarly sized motor in the KTM 125 Duke frame. Thinking along those same veins, KTM says an 18 month trail time is expected from the 125 Duke launch to when we’ll see the next larger iteration.

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Bajaj Gobbles Up Some More KTM Stock

11/30/2010 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj must be celebrating a late Thanksgiving (we might be talking about the wrong Indians here) as the Pune-based automotive group has gobbled up some more shares of Austrian company’s stock. Strengthening the two companies’ strategic partnership, Bajaj has modestly increased its 35.67% interest in KTM, becoming a 38.08% shareholder. Also coming out of the orange brand is news that Stefan Pierer will continue on as CEO of the company through 2015, and Friedrich Roithner, formerly of DGF Cross Industries, will take on the role of Financial Director in the new year.

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