How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

WSBK: Race Results for Race 2 at Imola

04/01/2012 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

With the sun peaking through the clouds over Imola, ambient and track temperatures warmed up a bit for World Superbike’s Race 2. With the Ducatisti lining the stands at the Italian track, race fans present at Imola looked for a strong showing from Carlos Checa and his Althea Ducati. The old Spaniard would have to contend with a tough grid though, and one especially quick Tom Sykes on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Continue reading for spoilers for race results.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 1 at Imola

04/01/2012 @ 9:17 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Round 2 of the 2012 World Superbike Championship comes from Imola today, and features six manufacturers in the top seven qualifying positions. With weather conditions favorable for racing, Italian motorcycle fans were treated to a great competition between the WSBK riders. Favored to win was the man on the local machine, Carlos Checa, but he would have to contest with pole-sitter Tom Sykes and his Kawasaki ZX-10R. Also always a crowd favorite in Italy is former-WSBK Champion Max Biaggi, who qualified a disappointing fifth, but still could not be counted out from a good result. Continue reading for spoilers and race results from World Superbike Race 1 at Imola.

WSBK: Superpole Qualifying at Imola Starts a Trend

03/31/2012 @ 7:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

After a month-long hiatus from the Phillip Island season-opener (Race 1 & Race 2), World Superbike action is back again this weekend and taking place in Imola, Italy. Though Max Biaggi leads the Championship with 45 points (ahead of Marco Melandri who has 30 points), much of the talk in the past month has been about the surprise resurgence of Kawasaki, with factory rider Tom Sykes taking a podium finish in Race 2 and showing potential to run against the likes of The Emperor, Carlos Checa, and Marco Melandri.

Now with Sykes third in the Championship going into Imola, the season that seemed preordained to be really between only two riders (Biaggi & Checa), has shown itself to be full of surprises. Continue reading for spoilers and results from the World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Imola.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 2 at Phillip Island

02/26/2012 @ 5:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As is the custom with World Supebike racing and with Race 1 out of the way, the WSBK grid lined up to it all again. Treating fans to a double-dose of motorcycle racing, you would think that the second race would be a repeat of the previous, but it was anything but that. Exciting from the first lap to the very last, the 2012 World Superbike Championship was off to a great start with its season-opener at Phillip Island, Australia. Continue on for results.

WSBK: Race Results for Race 1 at Phillip Island

02/26/2012 @ 12:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Despite a tragic beginning to the first race of the season, World Superbike racing returned to our lives today with the season-opener at Phillip Island. With cloudy skies and strong winds, Tom Sykes and the factory Kawasaki WSBK team took their place on the starting line at the pole position. Showing a marked improvement over last year’s measure, Kawasaki would still have to contend with the Ducati of Carlos Checa, the Aprilia of Max Biaggi, and the ever improving Honda of Johnny Rea.

WSBK: Superpole at Phillip Island Cancelled After Tragedy

02/25/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.

Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of  Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.

Video: Who is Max Biaggi?

02/23/2012 @ 9:36 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

I’m not going to front, when it comes to jobs, I have a pretty good thing going here with Asphalt & Rubber. Of course, if you want to talk about guys who really have turned a passion into a dream, Jamie Robinson takes the cake. Traveling around the world on miscellaneous two-wheeled adventures, the moto-videographer gets to sit down with some of the most interesting personalities in motorcycling. This morning, Jamie sent us this video of an interview he did with probably one of the most mysterious persons in motorcycle racing: Max Biaggi.

The Roman Emperor as he has become called, Biaggi has an amazing life story, and has often been cast as the antagonist in pieces involving fellow Italians Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi, and more recently Marco Melandri. A four-time 250GP World Champion, Biaggi’s crowning achievement to-date was his 2010 World Superbike Championship victory on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory. Plagued with injuries during the 2011 season, Biaggi is back for 2012 and looking for his #1 plate again.

Despite what you probably already think of Max Biaggi, Jamie has really managed to show another side to the Italian rider in this video interview. Now a family man and in his 40’s, maybe what we are seeing is a new and improved Biaggi, or then again, maybe this is the same Max that the media just never wanted to portray. Good stuff, check it out after the jump.

WSBK: Sykes Fastest at Phillip Island Official Testing

02/21/2012 @ 7:47 am, by Victoria Reid20 COMMENTS

With Carlos Checa dominating Phillip Island during the private tests and the first day of official testing, Tom Sykes displaced the reigning World Superbikes Champion early on in the second day of official testing at Phillip Island. In WSBK’s final test before the season’s racing kicks off this weekend, the Kawasaki rider set the day’s fastest time with a 1:31.648, holding off Checa by just 0.004 seconds. Also setting their best times on Tuesday, Jakub Smrz, Jonathan Rea, and Max Biaggi rounded out the fastest five overall. Marco Melandri was sixth fastest overall, with his best time being set on Monday.

There were a number of crashes that tested both riders and available machinery, of which Leon Haslam was the most notable. The Englishman fractured his right tibia in a high side at the final turn on Monday, leaving the BMW rider to scramble for an available surgery. He tweeted Tuesday, “I’ve finally found a guy to sort things out booked in for a Op on Thursday morning there might be a chance to ride on Sunday,” adding, “fingerscrossed.” Rea also crashed heavily, but did more damage to his bike than himself, and was able to continue throughout the test sessions.

A New Aprilia RSV4 for 2014?

02/09/2012 @ 4:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

It seems a bit silly to be talking about the 2014 model year when we are only into our second month of 2012. However, such is the case today because a certain Max Biaggi let it slip during the Aprilia Racing Team’s World Superbike presentation that 2012 would be the penultimate season for the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC. Adding that Aprilia would not be developing its race bike for the 2013 season, the signs would seemingly indicate that a new liter bike model from the Italian manufacturer is on the horizon for 2014.

14 Photos of the 2012 World Superbike Spec Aprilia RSV4

02/07/2012 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Aprilia was in Milan today, unveiling its 2012 World Superbike team with Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty. For this season, Aprilia Racing is outfitting its RSV4 race bikes with the company’s classic black & red livery, a break from the white Alitalia paint scheme from last year. Unable to defend his #1 plate, the 40-year-old Max Biaggi will return to racing with his “3” on the front of his RSV4.

Eager to regain World Superbike’s top position, Biaggi’s toughest competition could come from his own teammate. His second season in World Superbike, Laverty has shown a great deal of promise already on the Aprilia. Keep your eye on the Irishman for some podiums in 2012. Technicals specifications and 14 hi-res photos of the WSBK-spec 2012 Aprilia RSV4 are after the jump.