Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

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.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

10/14/2014 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions   Reduced Hours, Higher Wages ducati production line 635x423

Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines.

The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday.

The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

Harley-Davidson Gets All Its Ducks in a Row – Renegotiates Kansas City Labor Agreement

02/28/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley Davidson Gets All Its Ducks in a Row   Renegotiates Kansas City Labor Agreement Harley Davidson fuel tank logo 635x426

Last week Harley-Davidson reached a deal with the leadership at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 176 and the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 760 labor unions, but details on the deal were under wraps until the labor unions’ membership at Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant could vote on the deal. Ratifying the seven-year contract, Harley-Davidson will be implementing a new production operating system that is being rolled out across all of Harley’s production facilities, including the Missouri plant.

While Harley-Davidson’s new production system is expected to provide greater flexibility for seasonal and other volume-related production changes, it will also allow for great flexibility in customizing customers’ bikes directly on the assembly line. Harley-Davidson has been touting its H-D1 factory customization service, and this new production system would appear to be the back-end changes necessary to make that program possible. We imagine the union members cared less about this added flexibility in Harley’s production line, and were instead more concerned over the 145 workers who would be moved from full-time positions to flexible positions.

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand

01/06/2011 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

Ducati Opening Factory in Thailand 2011 Ducati Superbike 848 EVO 635x423

Get ready to pour some peanut sauce on your spaghetti as Bologna Bullets destined for the Southeast Asian markets will soon be produced in Ducati’s newly planned factory in Thailand.

Being called a “final assembly” plant, the move is similar to the one that Harley-Davidson undertook late last year, where the Bar & Shield brand setup an assembly plant in India in order to side-step the extremely high tariffs the country puts on foreign-made motorcycles.

In addition to Harley-Davidson, Ducati will be joining the likes of Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Brembo, all of whom have increased their presence in the Asian markets within the past year to capitalize on the growing economies of India, China, and Southeast Asia.

Wisconsin Dropped $25 Million in Tax Breaks on Harley-Davidson to Stay Put

09/20/2010 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Wisconsin Dropped $25 Million in Tax Breaks on Harley Davidson to Stay Put Wisconsin makes it rain fat joe style harley davidson

Through an Enterprise Zone tax credit, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce has handed Harley-Davidson a $25 million tax break for coming to terms with its labor unions in the company’s Tomahawk and Monemonee Falls production facilities. In a move that saw unions cave to Harley-Davidson’s ultimatum, the Bar & Shield brand has disclosed to the SEC that the agreement will save the company $50 million in annual operating expenses, but not before the company writes off a one-time charge of $85 million in restructuring costs, which includes the severance packages for laid off workers.

Unions Cave to Harley-Davidson Ultimatum

09/13/2010 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Unions Cave to Harley Davidson Ultimatum Harley Davidson Sportster XR1200X 635x423

Workers at Harley-Davidson’s Menomonee Falls plants have caved to Harley-Davidson’s labor restructuring ultimatum today, voting to approve a seven-year labor contract that would see 275 jobs cut and a two-tiered workforce implemented in the company’s Wisconsin-based production plants. The vote comes after Harley-Davidson threatened to move its Wisconsin production outside of the state (Kansas City being one of the alternatives), which would see the unions losing its entire 1,350 member workforce.

Unions Put the Kibosh on Moto Morini Acquisition

05/18/2010 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Unions Put the Kibosh on Moto Morini Acquisition Moto Morini 9.5 635x508

You have to love labor unions sometimes. Faced with the prospect of being completely out of work, the labor union negotiators have rejected a proposal from Paolo Berlusconi that would save Moto Morini from going completely out of business. Of course us Americans can relate to this plight, as we just recently watched the UAW try to pull the same tactic while the US automotive industry crumbled around them. The blocked agreement is obviously bad news for Moto Morini, but Berlesconi is likely not done pursuing the troubled Italian manufacturer.

Harley-Davidson Puts Wisconsin on Notice

04/30/2010 @ 3:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Puts Wisconsin on Notice Harley Davidson leaving Wisconsin 560x350

Harley-Davidson is looking to slash costs wherever they may be, and that includes its assembly/manufacturing line labor costs. HD and Milwaukee go together like peas and carrots, but Harley-Davidson has warned that if it doesn’t see lowering labor costs, it could walk away from Wisconsin all-together. At issue is nearlt $54 million in what Harley calls “costs gaps”, which the company attributes to the high cost of manufacturing at its Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk facilities.