A Ducati 1299 Superleggera with a Carbon Fiber Frame??!

Ducati has begun teasing something very special, which for now is going by the name of “Project 1408” on a micro-website the Italian manufacturer has setup. The site itself has no information, and doesn’t even tease what Project 1408 could be, but Ducati has already begun reaching out to its VIP customers, teasing something made from carbon fiber. Sources tell us though that the Ducati Project 1408 is a new Superleggera model, based off the Ducati 1299 Panigale platform. This new superbike isn’t just the Ducati 1199 Superleggera with the 1299 motor bolted into it though, with our sources saying that the Ducati 1299 Superleggera takes the weight savings a step further, with the highlight being a carbon fiber chassis.

Honda Africa Twin Supermoto Concept by Nicolas Petit

The Honda Africa Twin doesn’t lend itself naturally to a supermoto format, though it is one of the most capable off-road adventure bikes on the market, but you have to admit that this photoshop render by French designer Nicolas Petit is very intriguing. Maybe it’s our obvious bias towards anything supermoto that is talking, or maybe it’s that there is something to the idea of taking the Africa Twin, adding 17” wheels, and lowering it just enough that riders can actually flat-foot the machine while sitting on it. Add in some styling cues that scream “supermotard” and you have a very handsome machine that is ready to conquer anything the urban environment can throw at it. Hell, it’s probably just a scary clown costume away from a good time on a gravel road. Right??!

Brad’s Leggero by Walt Siegl

The latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, Brad’s Leggero helps fill the void left behind by the departure of the Ducati Sport Classic from the Italian company’s lineup. Speaking to those who long for simpler machines, at the core of the Leggero is an air-cooled two-valve Ducati engine, which was built and blueprinted by Bruce Meyers Performance. Helping complete the café racer look is the bullet fairing bodywork, which takes a dash of modern by being made of Kevlar. The modern touches continue, with the use Öhlins suspension and radially mounted Brembo brakes. The effect is a tastefully done café racer that not only shines with real craftsmanship, but also does post-heritage right: taking the best of design from the past, without snubbing the progress of technology in the future.

More Photos of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will know how much we like our high-resolution photos here at A&R, so we wanted to make sure you could get a good high-res look at the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 that debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. Yamaha has left its class-leading bike mostly unchanged for the next model year, when it comes to the R6 motor and chassis, which might disappoint some. But with the addition of R1-inspired styling, traction control, ABS brakes, and better suspension pieces, we think supersport fans will be pleased with this update. With the bar now set higher in the 600cc realm, hopefully we will see other manufacturers take up the challenge, and the supersport class will have new life breathed into it. We’ll have to wait and see on that. Until then, enjoy this modest photo gallery.

2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 Gets ABS, Traction Control, & More

The wait is finally over, as the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 debuted today at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. As expected, the new Yamaha R6 visually borrows from the recently updated R1, with a similar headlight and intake setup featuring now on both machines. On the technical side of things, the 2017 Yamaha R6 is more evolution than revolution, with the basic chassis and engine configuration staying the same. However, updates for 2017 include a revised suspension package, ABS brakes, riding modes via ride-by-wire, traction control, and an optional quickshifter. While more of a model refresh, than an all-new model, Yamaha has gone to great lengths to improve upon a machine that is already leading the supersport category.

HJC Is Coming Out with Star Wars Themed Helmets

Pardon me while I geek out, just a little bit. It looks like HJC has gotten the rights to make Star Wars themed helmets for their 2017 collection. Right now, HJC is showing two helmets, one that mimic’s Kylo Ren’s helmet in The Force Awakens, and the other that replicates Boba Fett’s iconic lid. Both of these themed helmets are based off the HJC RPHA 11 helmet, the company’s top-of-the-line helmet, which also serves as a platform for HJC’s other branded, tribute, and special edition helmets. There will also be a “Death Trooper” helmet, based on the HJC FG-17 helmet, that will debut in time to milk interest from the opening of Rogue One. It should be noted that rumors about a possible Princess Lela helmet, with side-mounted hair buns, are unfounded and possibly started by this publication.

2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory – Just Add Öhlins

It goes without saying that if the 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 is getting a list of updates at INTERMOT, then the same must be true for the Factory version of the potent 175hp streetfighter. This means that the 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory takes the new fourth-generation APRC electronics package, Bosch-powered cornering ABS, improved combustion chamber, larger exhaust can, and adds to it the typical Factory-spec improvements like Öhlins suspension (including an Öhlins steering damper). If you haven’t ridden the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR or Factory, we highly recommend it – they’re so choice. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 easily competes as one of our favorite motorcycles at Asphalt & Rubber.

2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP – Putting the Europeans on Notice

What you’re looking at is the 2017 Yamaha MT-10 SP, a new edition of Iwata’s crossplane-power streetfighter. Despite being just a few bolted-on parts, the Yamaha MT-10 SP is one of the more interesting machines to debut in INTERMOT today. This is because it pits the Yamaha MT-10 directly against the streetfighter offerings from the European brands – something that was already occurring with the MT-10/FZ-10, even if it was unintended. The Yamaha MT-10 SP though gives the Japanese a more proper machine to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Super Duke R, Tuono V4 1100, and other models. To do this, Yamaha has added semi-active suspension, courtesy of Öhlins. A quickshifter has also been added, along with an assist & slipper clutch.

The Yamaha MT-09 Gets a Facelift & More for 2017

Yamaha’s MT line runs with the tagline “The Dark Side of Japan” and promises edgy and affordable street bikes for urban riders. Someone in Iwata, Japan must have thought that the current Yamaha MT-09 wasn’t quite edgy enough though, which is the only way we can explain the 2017 Yamaha MT-09, which debuted today at the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany. Now with a “twin-eyed” LED headlight design, the Yamaha MT-09 feels a little bit more at home when parked next to the Yamaha MT-10 / Yamaha FZ-10 streetfighter. Other changes include an assist/slipper clutch, quickshifter, new suspension, and a redesigned tail section and fender.

Honda CBR1000RR SP2 – Big Red’s New Racing Platform

The current state of the World Superbike Championship rules entirely encourage the adoption once again of “homologation specials” – production bikes whose sole purpose is to be used on the race track. While none of the manufacturers have adopted a radical approach with their homologation special designs, this year’s INTERMOT show has already seen several such machines introduced, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, and the Honda CBR1000RR SP2. For Honda, the differences between the SP and SP2 aren’t terribly radical, but they are more purposeful. The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2 does come with several visual cues that are different from the CBR1000RR SP model: carbon insert panels, gold striping on the tri-color paint scheme, and the more obvious Marchesini wheels.

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


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.

AMA Pro Road Racing Signs TV Deal with CBS Sports

04/23/2013 @ 3:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS


Good news for American road racing fans, as AMA Pro Road Racing has inked a TV deal with the CBS Sports Network. With live flag-to-flag coverage of the National Guard SuperBike and GoPro Daytona SportBike classes, as well as a 30-minute preview show before-hand, it looks like the USA is getting proper coverage of its national motorcycle racing series through the 2014 series.

The news is a huge sigh of relief for AMA Pro Road Racing, which has been without a proper tv contract up until this point, despite being already one round into the 2013 season. For the riders and teams, this also means that their ability to attract sponsors has just been greatly improved. Able now to properly show national TV coverage, support, and attention, sponsors will be less gun-shy in handing over their marketing dollars — though one has to wonder how much damage has already been done.

For AMA Pro Road Racing, the deal means a step-back from the edge of the cliff, which could have seen the motorcycle racing here in American fall into the abyss of obscurity had it not made it onto the television screen of fans and wouldbe followers. With the deal good through the end of the 2014 season, hopefully the series can build some much needed momentum as the economy recovers. The full press release is after the jump.

This is LCR Honda

04/15/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on This is LCR Honda


For the amount of media that LCR Honda generates, you would think that Lucio Cecchinello’s small satellite Honda MotoGP team is much larger than it is in actuality.

This is because Cecchinello and his crew take a different tack from the rest of the MotoGP paddock when it comes to marketing strategies — the most notable of which is the team’s revolving door livery, which lines up specific brands for races in specific markets.

A team of passionate enthusiasts, LCR Honda also has a knack for producing engaging media pieces, which can be as lurid as the Playboy sponsorship debut of LCR Honda in 2009 (NSFW), or as simple as the video shown after the jump.

For all the superlatives about MotoGP being the “premier class” of motorcycle racing, it is rare that the artwork that is performed on the track is of the same caliber as to what the teams show in their communications. This however is not the case with LCR Honda.

Video: Ask Me Something, with Dani Pedrosa

04/01/2013 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS


For just a simple three-day test at the Circuit of the Americas, it is astounding how much marketing material that has poured out from the camps that surround the Honda and Yamaha factory MotoGP race teams. A true testament to the notion that if Dorna loosened its tight grip on recording video at MotoGP events, it could greatly benefit the sponsors, and thus the teams, and thus the riders of the sport.

Take our latest example with an Alpinestars’s “Ask Me Something” video installment that features HRC rider Dani Pedrosa. A simple four-minute promotional clip shot atop the observation tower at the Circuit of the Americas, Pedrosa gets some much needed fan interaction (and humanization), and Alpinestars has a cool promotional video to help justify the millions of dollars its spends in MotoGP each season.

If this had been an “official” test, where Dorna’s media bosses could impose its draconian rules about video, this short segment for one of the paddock’s greatest sponsors would never have occurred (or worse, Alpinestars would have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get permission to film its sponsored rider).

But instead since the COTA test was a “private” test, we get a glimpse into how the MotoGP paddock would function if it was a well-oiled media machine. We have never seen so much marketing material made for the US market come from MotoGP before now. It makes you wonder about something, doesn’t it?

Lin Jarvis Explains Yamaha’s New Social Media Policy

03/29/2013 @ 5:12 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS


There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted.

Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.

At the official launch of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, we spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy?

Consumer Reports: BMW & Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Are Less Reliable than Japanese OEMs

03/26/2013 @ 4:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS


In its May issue, Consumer Reports dives into the topic of motorcycle reliability, and confirms what many of us already knew: bikes from BMW and Harley-Davidson were reported to be less reliable than those from the Japanese OEMs.

Interestingly enough however, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were also far more likely to make a repeat-purchase with their chosen brand than were owners of Japanese motorcycles, sans those of Hondas, which scored just slightly lower than BMW and Harley-Davidson on customer retention.

Looking at customer complaints of “major” mechanical problems from the last four years, the report from over 4,000 motorcycle owners confirms the high-water mark set by the Japanese OEMs on motorcycle reliability, but also shows the power of good branding as it translates into brand loyalty and customer retention.

While Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha may be winning the minds of riders with their production prowess, they are losing the hearts of consumers, which is interesting since any salesman will tell you it is easier to keep a current customer, than to make a new one.

Lin Jarvis: Sponsorship, Vision, & Races Outside of Europe

03/22/2013 @ 5:56 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS


At the presentation of Yamaha’s 2013 MotoGP campaign, where the bike which Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will ride in the coming season was unveiled, it was clear that there was one thing missing from the bike: this season, as for the last two years, Yamaha’s MotoGP team will not have a title sponsor, but will campaign in corporate colors once again.

Though the news hardly came as a surprise – the colors being used throughout the winter testing period suggested that Yamaha would be racing without a title sponsor – we were interested to find out whether the current situation is sustainable.

To that end, we cornered Yamaha Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis, and put a few questions to him. Firstly, we asked, could Yamaha’s MotoGP team manage without a title sponsor, or was the expanded support from non-title sponsors sufficient? The answer to those questions was “yes and yes” Jarvis quipped.

Harley-Davidson Gains 10% on the Interbrand 100

03/18/2013 @ 3:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS


Something we missed when it was published, Harley-Davidson has remained on the 2012 Interbrand 100, and even made a 10% gain in value according to Interbrand’s brand valuation. The 76th most valuable brand worldwide in 2009, Harley-Davidson fell to 98th on the list in 2010, and threatened to fall off this list in 2011 when it was ranked as the 100th most valuable brand.

For 2012 however, Harley-Davidson’s brand value seems to mimic its unit sales, finding its rock-bottom value and then making some gains with the slowly recovering economy. After getting a 10% boost in brand value over its 2011 figure, Harley-Davidson ranks 96th amongst the world’s most valuable brands — a far cry from its position several years ago, but a step in the right direction for the venerable motorcycle brand.

Motorcycle Racing vs. Social Media: How Dorna Could Turn Losing the Battle into Winning the War

03/11/2013 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS


When the news that Dorna would be taking over World Superbikes broke, there was a wave of outrage among fans, expressing the fear that the Spanish company would set about destroying the series they had grown to love.

So far, Dorna has been careful not to get involved in debates about the technical regulations which seem to be so close to fans’ hearts, its only criteria so far appearing to be a demand that bikes should cost 250,000 euros for an entire season.

Yet it has already make one move which has a serious negative impact on the series: it is clamping down on video footage from inside the paddock.

There was some consternation – and there is still some confusion – about the situation at the first round of WSBK at Phillip Island at the end of February. Where previously, teams and journalists had been free to shoot various videos inside the paddock, there were mixed signals coming from Dorna management, with some people told there was an outright and immediate ban, with threats of serious consequences should it be ignored, while others were saying that they had heard nothing on the subject.

That Dorna is determined to reduce the amount of free material on YouTube became immediately clear after the race weekend was over: in previous years, brief, two-minute race summaries would appear on the official World Superbike Youtube channel after every weekend. After the first race of 2013, only the post-race interviews were posted on the site. It is a long-standing Dorna policy to try to strictly control what ends up on YouTube and what doesn’t. It is its most serious mistake, and one which could end up badly damaging the sport unless it is changed very soon.