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.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

First Look at the 2018 Yamaha YZ450FM

03/28/2017 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

The All-Japan Nationals for motocross always seem to give us a glimpse on what to expect from the Japanese manufacturers’ dirt bike divisions, so much so, that it has become a thing in moto-journal circls.

This year, Yamaha decided to drop some of the pretenses and help the journalists out, and even provided some photos and a statement about its upcoming motocross machines.

As such, the above motorcycle is the 2018 Yamaha YZ450FM – Yamaha’s revised 450cc motocross racing machine, and while actual details on the new motocross bike are thin, we can glean some details from the photos.

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Mugen Debuts an Electric Motocross Race Bike

03/24/2017 @ 3:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

At the Isle of Man TT, Mugen is the team to beat, with the company’s Shinden electric superbike showing the state of the art, when it comes to electric motorcycles.

The asphalt is apparently not enough for Mugen though, as the Japanese tuning house has “partnered” with Honda to build an electric motocross dirt bike.

What you are look at here is the Mugen E.Rex, and don’t let the horrid dinosaur theme put you off, there is some seriously bad to the bone (sorry, couldn’t resist) pieces on this roost-maker.

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Alta Motors Will Compete in the Red Bull Straight Rhythm

10/06/2016 @ 2:03 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The concept behind the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event is pretty easy to explain: take your typical supercross track, remove all the turns, thus making the course one big straight line, and unleash the riders in a head-to-head battle.

The Red Bull Straight Rhythm is a pretty intriguing and approachable event, and with the backing of Red Bull, it’s gaining steam and popularity.

The 2016 Red Bull Straight Rhythm will be even more interesting though, as we get word that electric motorcycle startup Alta Motors will compete in the 250cc lites class, with Josh Hill riding the Redshift MX electric dirt bike.

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Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS Boots Set to Debut

09/25/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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There might be no finer off-road boot than the Sidi Crossfire 2 SRS, which boasts superb design, riding versatility, and modular parts. And yet, the Italian company endeavors to improve upon that design, teasing this weekend the debut of the Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS.

I am not sure if the debut of an off-road boot needs to be drawn out over several teaser videos — I can hardly stand it when the same is applied for a new motorcycle launch — but we might forgive such a marketing scheme for such a worthy piece of kit.

To that end, the Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS continues the trend of the Italian brand, with replacement parts and pieces readily available for owners. This makes repairs from heavy spills an easy affair, it also makes the SRS line of boot highly adaptable for different types of riding.

This is because like its predecessor, the Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS has a variety of replacement soles available, which can be easily installed for riding motocross, enduro, adventure-touring, and supermoto.

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Not-A-Review: Alta Motors Redshift MX

09/06/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Quentin Wilson40 COMMENTS

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For a long time now, Asphalt & Rubber has been following the progress of Alta Motors (formerly BRD Motorcycles), as they have worked to make a lites-class comparable electric motorcycle.

With the Redshift MX motocross and Redshift SM supermoto bikes now shipping from the company’s San Francisco facility, the motorcycle community can finally see in the flesh what I have been calling one of the most competent electric motorcycles yet produced.

I have no problems saying I have had a hearty drink of the Alta Kool-aid. I was impressed with the Redshift SM prototype that I rode back in 2009, and the finalized form of the Redshift has only matured further from its strong start. 

I don’t want you simply to take my biased word for it though, so for today’s post, I have enlisted the help of my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host, Quentin Wilson. For those who don’t follow the show (shame on you), Quentin is a former chassis mechanic for the Graves Yamaha AMA team and the MotoCzysz MotoGP project. 

He is also an accomplished racer, generally go-fast guy, and has a fair bit of electric motorcycle riding experience as well. It also helps that he is familiar with the woodsy trails we have here near Portland, as we were riding Alta Motors’ motocross machine for the first time, at the Browns Camp OHV Area.

Quentin is like me though: we see electric motorcycles not as an answer to saving the environment, though that is a nice side effect, but instead as a superior method of making motorcycles not only faster, but more rideable.

With those two aspects in mind, I asked Quentin for his thoughts on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, after a couple hours of trail riding.

As you will see, Quentin’s usual ride is a Christini Honda CRF250X, which is an unusual bike in its own right, but fits into the 250cc class that Alta Motors is targeting right now with the Redshift series.

It is an interesting contrast, to be sure, but we think you will enjoy it. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks too for my more measured review on the Alta Motors Redshift SM. -JB

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #30 – The Need for Speed

08/30/2016 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 30 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees us discussing three different powertrains, the motorcycles that they power.

First up is Harley-Davidson’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine, which will power its Big Twin touring models for the 2017 model year. We then turn our attention to Ducati (no surprise there), and discuss the seeming return of the air-cooled Ducati Monster, which was spied last week.

We finish the show with a lengthy debrief on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, as Quentin and I had previously spent a day riding this electric dirt bike in the mountains near Portland, Oregon.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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Here’s How You Make A Proper-Fast Electric Motorcycle

08/17/2016 @ 4:11 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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It’s been a long-time coming, but customer bikes are starting to roll out of the Alta Motors production facility outside of San Francisco. That’s music to the ears of many patient and eager owners, and we’re pretty excited about it too.

This is because the Alta Motors Redshift SM is a designed to compete against any 250cc supermoto on the market, and the same can be said of the Californian company’s MX model as well, when it comes to motocross duties.

So far, every indication points to the Redshift living up to that promise (A&R will know first-hand, soon enough). Until then though, we’re chewing on this time-lapse video that Alta Motors posted to YouTube.

It’s interesting to see how the Alta Motors crew assembles their production electric motorcycles; but perhaps what is most striking, is the relatively clean and simple design that makes the Redshift come to life.

For a bike powered by batteries and liquid-cooled, there are almost no visible wires or hoses. See for yourself, after the jump.

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2017 Honda CRF450R Caught in the Wild

07/27/2016 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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A reader asked me recently what I knew about the upcoming 2017 Honda CRF450R dirt bike, and admittedly I had to say “not much” – it’s called Asphalt & Rubber after all.

For the past year though, even my radar has picked up sighting of Akira Narita (one of the greatest Japanese MX racers of all time) showing up to events in Japan with a race bike that looked pretty advanced from what was currently on dealership floors.

This is nothing new in the world of Honda though, with next year’s models often ending up at events on the other side of the Pacific…usually in Narita-san’s very capable hands.

But today, we can answer more accurately what Big Red is up to with the 2017 Honda CRF450R, as the folks at VitalMX caught the new motocrosser spinning laps at an MX track in Southern California (read their expert breakdown of the new bike, here).

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Video: Mind & Motor with Maverick Viñales

05/24/2016 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Forgive us as we play into Alpinestars’ marketing game, as the video we are about to show was made strictly to help sell more motorcycle leathers. But still, it is also a great insight into a MotoGP rider that has been hogging headlines recently, Maverick Viñales.

Tipped by many in the paddock as the next alien, Viñales was the major roadblock in this year’s MotoGP contract negotiations, as the young Spaniard had a difficult time choosing to leave the factory Suzuki MotoGP team for the factory Yamaha outfit.

Viñales even tells of his thought process for that decision in the video, which is remarkably candid of him to do, especially considering that the media is a sponsor’s marketing video.

Other items of note is how Maverick Viñales nearly found himself racing MX bikes, instead of GP bikes. He also talks about how he trains on the motocross track with his girlfriend, Kiara Fontanesi, who also happens to be a four-time Women’s Motocross World Champion.

Long story short, the video is well worth a watch. Check it out after the jump.

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More Electronic Rider Aids Comes to the Dirt – Husqvarna’s 2017 Motocross Line Features Traction Control

05/10/2016 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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The rise of electronic rider aids has come to consumer-level dirt bikes, with Husqvarna now offering traction control on all of its four-stroke motocross motorcycles for the 2017 model year.

Traction control on dirt bikes isn’t a new concept, with racing machines featuring the technology for almost a decade now (in some form or another, and depsite what the rules say), but Husqvarna’s foray into the use of electronics marks a new era for consumer dirt bikes.

As we see already in the on-road segments, traction control and other electronics are proving themselves to be the new horsepower. Their introduction into the off-road realm was all but assured (and started with the 2015 Kawasaki KX450F), and now that day has seemingly come for the masses.

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