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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Rok Bagoroš’s New KTM 690 Duke Stunt Bike

04/24/2012 @ 11:48 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

You may remember Rok Bagoroš from his two-wheeled escapades on the KTM 125 Duke, but the 23-year-old Slovenian stunt rider has just graduated to KTM’s big-boy hooligan machine: the KTM 690 Duke. With the Austrian manufacturer making a special KTM 690 Duke to suit the needs of Bagoroš, the folks at Kiska have also given the new Duke a nice personalized and edgy look to the bike to fit Rok’s style.

“There’s a BIG difference between the two bikes,” says Rok. “The bike has five times more power then the Duke 125 and any mistake can result in a crash, as I’ve already discovered. The bike has amazing power but I’m slowly getting it under control. I have to remember that this is my first big stunt bike and so I have to learn how to handle the extra power and convert it into spectacular tricks that will be fun to do and thrilling for the fans.”

While Rok gets used to his new toy, we will just have to lament the fact that KTM is still not bringing this bike to the United States. Enjoy the photos and video after the jump, it is likely as close as you will get to the KTM 690 Duke on USA soil.

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KTM RC4 690R Supermono by Mototech

12/28/2011 @ 12:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A two-wheeled speeding ticket made in Austria, I’m still bitter that the 2012 KTM 690 Duke isn’t coming to American soil. With all the dressings of a bare-knuckled hooligan machine for the street, the new Duke will surely live up to its heritage of angering elderly women, but a German company has thought up a more refined role for the big-displacement thumper. Adopting the bike into a more superbike trim, German suspension tuners Mototech have created what they call the KTM RC4 690R…and I like it.

We’ve seen KTM Supermono’s before, with perhaps one of the best examples coming from some KTM engineers who built a SuperDuke 690 sport bike on their own time. Don’t let those words discourage you from Mototech’s work though, as the team’s RC4 690R looks like it rolled out of the KTM factory floor this morning. You’ll either love or hate the dual-projector headlight setup, while the tail section remains very true to the lines of the original Duke 690. Everyone will be a fan of the 125kg (275 lbs) quoted weight figure

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KTM Videos – A Case Study on Promoting a New Motorcycle

11/14/2011 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Loyal readers to Asphalt & Rubber should know by now that on semi-regular basis I like to lambast motorcycle companies, both individually and as a whole, for they’re dismal understanding of what often gets referred to as “new media” (the fact that such a title is applied to a medium that has been in commercial form for over two decades should shed some insight on the situation I’m dealing with here). Now often this tradition of mine revolves around pointing out some of the gems of imagination that emanate from our industry, which in turn leads to me saying things that result in A&R being uninvited to future events held by the company in question. C’est la vie.

Of course if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. So in the interest of trying to make the world a better place, I’ll offer these three videos by KTM as examples to the companies that have received my ire, and suggest that if you need some inspiration on how put together a rich and compelling video media campaign for a motorcycle you’ve recently launched, then compare and contrast the following with your own work-product in order to highlight your deficiencies.

Lastly, a couple points to ponder. If motorcycles are an aspirational purchase, then put some aspiration into your message. If motorcycles are an expression of individuality, then make sure your bike’s identity shines through. If motorcycles are supposed to be a form of recreation, then better damn well be grinning ear-to-ear after you are done. Videos after the jump.

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2012 KTM 690 Duke – Cheaper, More Powerful, & ABS

11/08/2011 @ 7:04 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

After teasing us with some photos and video of its new Duke, KTM finally unveiled the 2012 KTM 690 Duke at EICMA this morning. With 90% of the bike being completely brand new, KTM says the new 690 Duke brings the Austrian company back to its street-naked roots, with an off-road influence of course. Accordingly, at the heart of the KTM 690 Duke is a 690cc LC4 single-cylinder thumper that puts out a crushing 70hp and 51 lbs•ft of torque, while the whole motorcycle package weighs only 330 lbs (without fuel).

Further refining the LC4 single-cylidner motor, KTM has created a new cylinder head, and added a dual-ignition system & ride-by-wire throttle for the 690 Duke. Anti-lock brakes have also been added to the 2012 KTM 690 Duke, as the Austrian company has tapped Bosch to use the Bosch 9M+ ABS package. Lastly, braking power comes from a Brembo radially-mounted caliper with a single 320mm brake disc, while suspension is handle by KTM subsidiary WP, and consists of fully-adjustable 43mm front forks, and a fully-adjustable rear shock.

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Video: 2012 KTM 690 Duke Teaser

10/31/2011 @ 5:47 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

We should probably just start copy/pasting this following text, as we suspect more than a few motorcycle companies will be releasing teaser videos of their upcoming models ahead of the 2011 EICMA show. Last week we already caught a glimpse of the MV Agusta Brutale 675, and today KTM has an unlisted YouTube video for the 2012 KTM 690 Duke.

Rumor has it that the new Duke won’t be coming to the US market, which seems to be confirmed by KTM North America’s leaked product road map. Still, our friends across the pond are surely in for a treat, as the “Ready to Race” brand knows how to make a good hooligan machine or two. While we wait for official specs on the new Austrian thumper, check out the Kiska-vibed video after the jump.

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Spy Photo: 2012 KTM 690 Duke

04/27/2011 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

MCN is running a photo today that a Austrian KTM enthusiast supposedly snapped at at gas station just down the street from the Austrian company’s Mattighofen headquarters. Coming across what looks to be an early-prototype of the 2012 KTM 690 Duke, we have at least a rough idea of what KTM will likely unveil at EICMA later this year.

Expected to be a few horsepower up on its predecessor, the ~70hp 2012 KTM 690 Duke has always been an urban wheelie machine that KTM would be hard-pressed to improve upon. The most notable changes so far appear to be a new headlight, a more pronounced pillion, and standard exhaust placement, along with a revised chassis and motor.

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