Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Max Biaggi Officially Retires from Motorcycle Racing

11/07/2012 @ 8:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

True to speculation, Max Biaggi’s media presentation today announced the retirement of the reigning World Superbike Champion, at the ripe age of 41. A six-time World Champion, Biaggi’s latest stars to his leathers have come from his involvement in the factory Aprilia Racing team in WSBK, with the other four stars coming from his consecutive 250GP World Championships.

Winning his crown by half a point, in what will surely be the narrowest margin ever in World Superbike history, Biaggi’s last season went right down to the wire until the end of the season at Portimao, as the Roman Emperor had to fend off strong contentions from both Tom Sykes and Macro Melandri throughout the 2012 Championship.

“It ‘s been the longest night, but I’m happy to leave now. I do not want to be like politicians attached to the chair. I thought about it a lot, I said to myself continuous 1 or 2 years or I stop? And I decided to leave now,” said Biaggi during his announcement at Vallelunga, the circuit where he started his racing career.

Biaggi to Make an Announcement November 7th – Retire, Re-sign, or Other?

11/05/2012 @ 10:12 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Fresh off the heels of him wining the 2012 World Superbike Championship, question marks surround Max Biaggi — will he stay with Aprilia for another season and defend his title? Or, will he end his motorcycle racing career on a high, having just collected his sixth world title?

The crystal ball on this subject is uncertain. Though still not re-signed with the factory Aprilia squad for the next World Superbike Championship season, Biaggi did take part in the latest WSBK test at Aragon, which certainly lead to some believing the Roman Emperor would race for at least another season.

Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion

10/09/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Even before I met Max Biaggi in 2011, I had the sense that here was someone who takes himself and his racing pretty seriously. From the immaculately trimmed facial hair, to his manner in the pit box, to his long career as a motorcycle racer, if there is anything he takes lightly, it is certainly not racing.

Some riders are approachable, quick to smile, who naturally put others at ease even on race weekends. Biaggi is not among this group. But I didn’t appreciate just how intense he is when he’s at work until, as one of my contributions to benefit Riders for Health, I decided to ask him to sign a print I was donating at last year’s Miller WSBK round.

I had brought a matted print of Biaggi from 2010 with me, and as I approached the track on Saturday morning I considered that it would likely fetch a higher price, and thus a greater donation to Riders for Health, if it bore Max’s signature. So I set about getting that done with no idea how easy or difficult it might be.

First I approached the Aprilia media officer, a pleasant fellow who worked with me, half in Italian and half in English, to come up with a plan to approach his star rider. He suggested we talk to someone in the pit box, someone who knew Max better than he did in his recently acquired role with the team.

We descended into the Aprilia garage and found someone whose exact role I never understood, but who also liked the idea of doing something for Riders for Health. He did not, however, care to be the one to bring it directly to Max. The three of us considered the situation and appealed to one of the senior mechanics, who gave us a sympathetic look and said in gestures instead of words that he wanted no part of the business.

We stood to the side of the box, waiting for inspiration, and I wondered if the plan were doomed. Max spoke to mechanics as if discussing matters of life and death. Team members approached him respectfully, presented their concerns for his comment, and left him alone. In some garages the guys joke and there is music in the business of racing motorbikes. In Max’s garage, it’s more like a war room, its business deadly serious.

WSBK: Interrupted Superpole During Qualifying at Brno

07/21/2012 @ 1:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Not withstanding the drama of Liberty Racing and Sylvain Guintoli’s slightly absurd dustup and parting of ways, along with the news the BMW Motorrad would fold its factory team into the BMW Italia effort, it’s been business as usual at Brno for World Superbike this week. The same could not be said for Saturday’s Superpole event though, which suffered from fluids being dumped on the track, and then a bout of rain caused the qualifying to go to a wet format. With teams having to adapt to the changing format, the grid for Sunday is certainly an interesting one.

WSBK: Race 2 Makes it a Foursome at Aragon

07/01/2012 @ 7:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

With Race 1 of World Superbike racing at Aragon proving to be a close-fought battle for the top podium spot, the anticipation for Race 2 at the Spanish track was high. Equally rising were the temperatures and wind speeds, which created a new challenge for WSBK teams to deal with in the second race. And though the usual suspects were up at the front of the pack, some newcomers joined them as well, treating World Superbike fans to some very close racing. Race results after the jump.

WSBK: Duel to the Finish for Race 1 at Aragon

07/01/2012 @ 6:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With the weather being fair, though cooler and windier at Aragon than some would prefer, World Superbike racing was underway in Spain as Tom Sykes sat on pole…yet again. Fast on Saturday’s, the Englishman has been unable to convert his Superpole dominance into real race results, though the Kawasaki Racing racer was the only rider during qualifying to break into the 1’36 timezone.

Showing more promise with their race pace were the factory Aprilias of Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty, who will start second and third on the grid, respectively. Rounding out the front row was Leon Haslam, who bested his teammate Marco Melandri.

WSBK: Championship Heats up after Race 2 at Misano

06/11/2012 @ 7:30 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

With Saturday’s Superpole qualifying mixing up the field for Sunday’s races, with three of the Top 5 contenders were relegated to the back of the starting grid, World Superbike’s stop at Misano proved to be a pivotal moment in the Championship.

Italian fans waited to see if Tom Sykes could finally capitalize on one of this many pole positions this year, though attention was also divided among Max Biagg, Carlos Checa, and Marco Melandri whom were outside the top eight spots at the start both races. Showing some truly phenonomenal racing, the results of Race 2 at Misano are sure to have a lasting effect on the 2012 points totals.

WSBK: Unfamiliar Names Thrill During Race 1 at Misano

06/11/2012 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

With many of World Superbike’s top riders finding themselves on unfamiliar grid positions for WSBK’s stop at Misano, a slew of new names were thrust into the spotlight. Getting their chance to shine at the coastal track, WSBK fans were treated to a multitude of great battles under sunny Italian skies, as veteran riders had to work their way from the bike of the field, and contend with riders they normally don’t see in racing conditions. If you didn’t catch Race 1 at Misano, your life isn’t complete. Race reults after the jump.

WSBK: Red Flags Mean Second Chances for Race 2 at MMP

05/29/2012 @ 6:55 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

With clean racing for Race 1 at Miller Motorsports Park, World Superbike’s Race 2 was interrupted after a few laps with a red flag incident caused by Hiroshi Aoyama’s Honda CBR1000RR crashing, and spilling fluid onto the track. This proved to be bad news for Carlos Checa, who like in Race 1, had gotten clear of the field, and was able to once again run his own race. Instead, Checa had to contend with strong showings from Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes, proving that the restart of Race 2 would be another good battle.

WSBK: Sunshine & Motorbikes for Race 1 at MMP

05/29/2012 @ 5:21 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Memorial Day was finally greeted with some proper racing weather at Miller Motorsports Park, and World Superbike racing was underway Monday at WSBK’s only stop in the USA. With the Ducatis lacking speed on Miller’s long front straight, the Italain contingency made up for its horsepower deficit in MMP’s many curves. Surprisingly, this lead to Jakub Smrz taking the Superpole on Sunday, and with Carlos Checa and Davide Giugliano sitting on the front row, only Tom Sykes could mix things up with his #3 spot on the grid.