Ride in Peace, Author Robert Pirsig

I first heard of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR600F2. I was stuck in the middle of Dunsmuir, California with a bad rectifier/regulator (a common trouble-spot on that model bike), and a passerby recommended the title. I think they referred the book out of naiveté its content, but obviously the novel, despite its title, would do little to help my immediate problem with my Honda, though it was a good read about some general philosophic ideas, which I could chew-on after I got my CBR bumped-started and back on the road again. Undoubtedly, you have likely heard of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

TTXGP & FIM Holding Three Joint Electric Races – Laguna Seca, Donington Park, & Le Mans

05/09/2011 @ 9:26 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.

Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.

Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.

The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.

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Jesse James Starts New Media Production Company

04/22/2011 @ 3:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Jesse James, the man we love to hate, is back in the news today with reports that his Payupsucker Productions, Inc. has teamed-up with Circle King Networks to create El Jefe Entertainment, a motor sports enthusiasts focused production company. While James has always been regarded as a true artisan in the craft of motorcycle fabrication, his true spotlight of fame came from his media savvy in leveraging his name and creating shows like Monster Garage and Jesse James is a Dead Man.

El Jefe Entertainment’s goal is to “develop, produce and distribute exciting, authentic motor-sport based and car enthusiast entertainment,” and will be focusing with movies and products that will be available on DVD, Pay Per View, as well as direct and mobile formats.

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Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

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FIM e-Power/TTXGP Merger Well Underway

03/16/2011 @ 6:29 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Rumors of an FIM e-Power and TTXGP merger have been quietly floating around for the past week, and before we could report on those whispers of the event, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme has scooped us with the story that it has been holding conversations with the folks at TTXGP regarding the two series running joint events during the 2011 electric motorcycle season, with a possible final joint Championship to take place at the end of the year.

Sources close to the talks have told Asphalt & Rubber that a merger between the two series is imminent, with many of the stakeholders already signing-off on the deal. The likely outcome would be a series that lives on with the e-Power name, promoted by none other than Dorna Motor Sports, of MotoGP media fame. The FIM’s impetus seems to be in consolidating the two diverging series, and finally integrating them into established professional road racing.

Conversely, TTXGP will be able to find a financial exit from the rumored deal, something its investors will surely be happy to see. TTXGP has been able to piggyback off of local and club racing events, making deals with the tracks themselves, rather than the organizing bodies, in an effort to expand rapidly. While TTXGP has seen push-back from the Isle of Man TT, FIM, and AMA, the series has proven to be more adept at marketing itself than the FIM with its e-Power.

More on this as we get it, for now both parties are only admitting to the fact that they are talking about “collaborating” with one another. Joint statement from the FIM & TTXGP after the jump, along with their 2011 racing calendars.

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Rumors of a Ducati/Piaggio Merger Abound

03/10/2010 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

The Italian press is one of those entities that you have to both love and hate at the same time. Rumors are swirling today in Italy about a possible merger between Ducati and Piaggio that is being investigated by strategy consulting firm McKinsey & Co. According to reports, the goal of  such a merger would be to create one large Italian motorcycle manufacturer capable of competing with the Japanese Four. However like all good gossip, you have to consider the source and run things past the smell test, and this rumor smells like something fanciful made up by the Italian media.

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Vectrix Motocycles on the Chopping Block

04/17/2009 @ 10:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

vectrix_superbike

Electric motorcycle manufacturer Vectrix looks to be in financial dire straits yet again, and is reportedly looking for either a buyer, or possible merger in order to bail itself out of the deadpool. 

 

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Bajaj Gobbles Up More of KTM

12/18/2008 @ 11:00 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bajaj Gobbles Up More of KTM

Bajaj, the Tata of the motorcycle world, has purchased an additional amount of KTM’s stock, raising its interest in the Austrian company to 25.86%. Bajaj had previously owned just over a 20% stake in the orange brand, and is indicating that it is not content with just its current amount.

This news comes with little surprise as Bajaj has telegraphed this acquisition and intent already when it gobble up an additional 14% of the company back in 2007. Rumors are now already forming as to whether Bajaj will try and consume a majority stake in KTM’s stock.

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