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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Brammo Gets Investment from TEAM Industries – Forms Strategic Partnership for Design and Production

07/08/2014 @ 4:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Brammo Gets Investment from TEAM Industries   Forms Strategic Partnership for Design and Production brammo empulse r 635x423

The folks in Talent, Oregon have some exciting news today, as electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo has announced a strategic partnership with TEAM Industries, a leading drivetrain technology firm. The partnership with TEAM brings a variety of advantages to Brammo’s production and design process, and it also sees TEAM becoming an investor in the electric vehicle startup.

TEAM’s ability to develop and produce, locally in the United States, will help Brammo not only develop its future products more effectively, but also help lower the cost of its current offering. Talking to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher, he called TEAM Industries “American manufacturing at its finest,” and highlighted TEAM’s commitment to creating jobs throughout Minnesota, and its ability to work on a wide variety of manufacturing stages

Aside from the capital infusion, which is the lifeblood of any startup company, Brammo seems to be getting a wide array of benefits by working with TEAM.

How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling

10/05/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling the printing press 635x476

For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.

Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.

For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).

The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.

This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.

As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.

Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant – Consolidates in France

02/07/2011 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Yamaha Closes Spanish Plant   Consolidates in France Yamaha Logo 635x424

Yamaha recently announced that it will be closing its factory in northeastern Spain, and consolidating the production into its Saint Quintin plant in France. The move comes as a result of Yamaha feeling the pain from the dwindling global demand for motorcycles, resulting in the Spanish plant having considerable excess capacity in its production.

Located near Barcelona, Yamaha’s Spanish Palau-Solita i Plegamans facility is capable of producing 130,000 units per year, but only managed 96,000 in 2010. The plant’s closure will affect 420 jobs, and Yamaha management has already reportedly confirmed that they will be forgoing any bonuses for the first half of 2011, and will be taking a healthy pay cut (15%-30%) during the same time period.

US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding

01/20/2011 @ 5:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

US Highland Idles Factory While Looking for Funding us highland viking 950 vtwin 635x423

Six months after US Highland lost three members of its executive team in a tragic small-plane accident, the American company has announced that it will be idling its Tulsa plant while it continues to finish its latest round of funding. Despite this news, US Highland is reportedly close to achieving its fundraising goals, and hopes to have production rolling again once the fundraising is complete.

The Southbridge Advisory Group (SAG) has been brought in to help find a new executive team for US Highland, and is also helping the motorcycle manufacturer find new investors. While any one of these goals would be a large undertaking on its own, having to contend both with raising capital and finding a new executive team is a daunting task.

Royal Enfield to Double Production Capacity

06/17/2010 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Royal Enfield to Double Production Capacity Royal Enfield double production 635x476

Royal Enfield Motors has released a statement saying that the historic company is getting ready to double its current production levels in the coming years. The proposed expansion, which would see the company’s current production level of 52,000 yearly motorcycles get bumped to 70,000 units in 2011, 90,000 units in 2012, and finally 100,000 units in 2013, stems from the positive response the company has seen to its fuel-injected motorcycles. This would seem to be refinement of Royal Enfield’s similar announcement 6 months ago, where the company also said it planned to double production.

Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico

05/21/2010 @ 6:21 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Polaris Packs Up Manufacturing and Moves to Mexico PolarisSnowmobile 560x420

In about 18 months, roughly a thousand workers will be out of a job at the Polaris plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In that timeframe Polaris plans to close the Osceola plant, and move its production south of the border to Mexico. The move comes about as Polaris looks to increase production efficiency (i.e. lower production costs with cheaper labor), which will then allow the company to be more competitive with its products’ positions in their respective marketplaces.

Mission Motors Changes Management Line-up – Appoints Jit Bhattacharya as Interim CEO

02/11/2010 @ 10:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Mission Motors Changes Management Line up – Appoints Jit Bhattacharya as Interim CEO tradition is not a business model mission motors 6 635x423

Mission Motors has announced today that they have replaced co-founder Forrest North in his role as company CEO. The move signals a change within Mission Motors that shows the company focusing on bringing products into production and putting them into consumers’ hands. In their announcement, Mission Motors’ Board of Directors have begun their search for a long-term CEO with experience in product development and automotive manufacturing, but in the interim the company will be headed by its current COO Jit Bhattacharya.

The transition, while seemingly drastic, is one that every startup must face as it moves from a visionary and industry challenging mindset to a functional and operational capacity. This movement in management is one that virtually all startups face at some point or another, and something we’ve talked about here in some detail in our “Tradition is not a Business Model” series, so it’s announcement at this point in time isn’t terribly surprising to this author, and storied lesson in entrepreneurship that transcends even into the motorcycle industry.

Yamaha Opening Pakistani Manufacturing Plant to Serve Asian/African Markets

09/21/2009 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Yamaha Opening Pakistani Manufacturing Plant to Serve Asian/African Markets Yamaha V Max drag strip 635x476

Investing in emerging markets, Yamaha Motors is set to invest $150 million in a new motorcycle manufacturing plant located in Pakistan. The plant, which is to be established in the National Industrial Park at Bin Qasim, Karachi, will serve as a central location for Yamaha’s move into Pakistan, India, and other emerging Asian and African markets.

Piaggio Opens National Technical Center in Southern California

03/20/2009 @ 11:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Piaggio Opens National Technical Center in Southern California piaggio logo 560x193

The Piaggio Group Americas is opening a new national technical center in Costa Mesa, CA. The 12,000 square foot facility houses the company’s product testing and technical training operations, including factory product training and classroom instruction for service technicians from all U.S. and Canadian dealerships, as well as Latin American importers. Piaggio, which had all-time record-setting U.S. sales in 2008, continues to expand both its model line and dealer network with over 500 dealers serving customers in North America. The company also anticipates ongoing strong demand for its diverse range of scooters and motorcycles as consumers shift focus to more economical personal transportation.