EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

The EPA DOJ have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices. Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Moto3: Sky VR46 Fires Romano Fenati

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent. Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner. The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict. The Sky VR46 team have announced that they will be bringing Lorenzo Dalla Porta in to join Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the Moto3 team.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year. Our friends at Motorcycle.com spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar. The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel. Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches. This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog. There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel.

2017 KTM RC16 Officially Debuts

The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes. The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.

Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay. On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle. The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery. To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm). The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo, which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo.

Former Skully Employee Alleges in Lawsuit that Executives Used Corporate Funds as “Personal Piggy Banks”

A former Skully employee, Isabelle Faithhauer, is bringing suit against Skully and its founders Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller. Faithhauer is the former-assistant to Skully CEO Marcus Weller, and for a time, served as the company’s bookkeeper. In her complaint she alleges that Skully wrongfully terminated her, and brings several other causes of action that are related to that wrongful termination. However in her filing with the court, Faithhauer also lists a number of incidents where Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller allegedly used company funds to buy exotic cars, rent expensive apartments in San Francisco, and travel around the world.

How History Is Repeating with Energy Drinks, And Creating Another Tobacco Disaster in Motorcycle Racing

06/11/2014 @ 6:50 pm, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

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At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the ‘Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya’ – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called ‘The Doctor’, marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory.

If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing’s marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport. It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role that tobacco once played, funding teams, riders, and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built.

Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad, and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks.

Then there’s the armada of other brands: Gresini’s Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.

Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008.

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT

06/09/2014 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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My sleep schedule is almost back to normal, so that must mean that Asphalt & Rubber has just about wrapped up our 2014 Isle of Man TT coverage. After a great fortnight of TT racing, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite YouTube personality, Baron von Grumble, was able to witness the Isle of Man TT in person as well, him with his video cameras in tow.

You might remember The Baron from his misadventures off-roading on a Suzuki GXR-1000 a couple years ago. Since then, His Lordship has become one of motorcycling’s most popular video bloggers — I wonder how many marketing executives in the motorcycles business could name the industry’s top five blogs and YouTube channels? Clearly Dainese and AGV can, since they helped bring Von Grumble to the Rock. Good on them.

The plan is for more videos from the Isle of Man TT trip to come forth from Von Grumble. If they are anything like this teaser (after the jump), then we are in for a real treat. I’ve played this probably 10 times so far. Nice work fella!

Just So We’re Clear, This is How You Market a Race Team

03/12/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

triumph-ama-jason-disalvo-elena-myers

The start of the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar is just around the corner, and that means manufacturers, teams, and riders are getting their PR machines in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about our venerable national racing series (DMG’s shenanigans aside), but duds like this don’t help in whetting our two-wheeled racing appetite here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Just when we were about to lose all hope though, Triumph shows up and saves the day…with a little help from Jason DiSalvo and Elena Myers. Kneedragging, wheelie popping, backwheel drifting two-wheeled fun, all packaged in a well-done YouTube video that even manages to show a little personality from the riders.

We dig it, we dig it hard. A quick warning though: several orange cones were hurt during the filming of this video. Some footage may not be suitable for adult-sized children with a history of brrraaappptitus. Thanks for the tip Matt!

Yamaha “Spy Footage” to Be “Leaked” Online, By Yamaha

02/27/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

TOPSECRET-Yamaha

We see our fair share of weird press releases here at Asphalt & Rubber, though usually the strangeness stems around English not being the primary language of the writer — which to be fair, if we had to write something in a language other than our native tongue, it would read pretty strange as well.

Today’s weirdness however comes from Yamaha USA, who sent out a press release with the title: “Yamaha U.S. Road Racing Teams Discover Evidence Of Being ‘Spied On’ While At Recent Track Test”. The email title certainly grabbed our attention, after all who doesn’t like a good spy story? Danger Zone!

What followed of course was utter disappointment, as the whole premise for the release was to tease and setup a future social media campaign from the tuning fork brand — the giveaway is where the company states several times that the footage “may be leaked” onto social media. Le sigh.

You can’t fault Yamaha USA for recently holding a two-day test/media day at Thunderhill Raceway for its AMA Road Racing riders, nor can you fault the last-OEM-standing in the AMA paddock for wanting to promote its racing efforts there. What worries us, especially while looking at how AMA Pro Racing is collapsing in on itself, is how forced this campaign feels. Did The Fonz just jump over a shark on water skis?

Now don’t get us wrong, Yamaha USA has produced some amazing viral media in the past, so we want to give the benefit of the doubt, but this just feels tacky — or genius-level meta. You can read the press release after the jump, and decide for yourself though.

Wherefore Art Thou KTM RC390?

12/04/2013 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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KTM USA is going to have a mutiny on its hands if it doesn’t bring at least the KTM RC390 street bike to American soil, and we won’t even mention the KTM RC125 & KTM RC200.

Not only have bikes like the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 shown a lucrative market for small-displacement machines in the United States, but AMA Pro Racing’s recent announcement that it is considering a national racing class for ~250cc bikes should sweeten the pot for the “Ready to Race” brand.

Going Viral: Motorcycling’s Lady Trope Problem

11/09/2013 @ 8:21 am, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post that compared two sets of photos that had been done by Portland, Oregon Ducati dealership MotoCorsa. The first set was called “seDUCATIve” and featured a model name Kylie and the Ducati 1199 Panigale — you can imagine what those photos looked like.

MotoCorsa did something interesting with its second set of photos though, which were titled “MANigale”. Featuring male mechanics from the dealership, these good-humored lads recreated Kylie’s poses with the Panigale, complete with heels, tube tops, and booty shorts. It was good fun, and since I have a personal vendetta with the “girl on a bike” trope of motorcycle marketing, it made for good commentary as well.

The seDUCATIve vs. MANigale article was a fairly popular story on Asphalt & Rubber, it had its couple days of fame, and that was that — or so I thought. For the past month now, the MANigale story has been hitting various more mainstream outlets worldwide — much to my surprise, but also delight.

Michael Jordan Motorsports Leaves AMA Pro Racing — Headed to World Superbike? MotoGP?

10/30/2013 @ 3:45 am, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

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News has dropped that the Michael Jordan Motorsports (MJM) team will not be returning to AMA Pro Racing next season due to the fact that the National Guard would also be ceasing its involvement with the domestic motorcycle racing series (the Army National Guard was the chief sponsor of Michael Jordan Motorsports, and was also the title sponsor of the AMA Pro SuperBike class).

Talking to RoadRacingWorld on Tuesday, MJM’s Kreig Robinson confirmed that the National Guard’s lack of renewal with DMG stemmed from AMA Pro Racing’s waning TV viewership and dwindling event crowds.

With sponsoring AMA Pro Racing no longer making smart business sense for the National Guard, Robinson said he had little to argue with in regards to the National Guard’s decision.

Video: Indian Motorcycle – The Spirit of Munro

07/09/2013 @ 5:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Indian Spirit of Munro, Daytona, FL, March 2013

Indian’s war machine continues to gain momentum, and the challenger to Harley-Davidson’s throne continues to impress. A new video comes our way, this time building on the heritage of the American brand through Burt Munro. One of just many stories around the historic marques, it probably helps that Burt Munro’s name was vaulted into the public consciousness by Hollywood’s The World’s Fastest Indian.

Building an all-metal tribute to Munro’s streamliner, we can find a few flaws that gnaw away at us as we watch this otherwise perfect video campaign (salt veterans know what we’re talking about). Still, Indian is bringing a good fight to Harley-Davidson’s doorstop with marketing promos like these. If you are in the legacy cruiser market, you might have a tougher decisions to make than usual when picking a favorite ride.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.