Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

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.

motoDNA: Emergency Braking Techniques

05/19/2014 @ 6:10 pm, by Mark McVeigh8 COMMENTS

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Nothing causes as much confusion or trepidation in riders as emergency braking. How hard can I brake? Will the front wheel lock? Will I go over the handlebars? How far can I lean over on the brakes?

As a Motorcycle Instructor I am continually amazed at how many of our students, who have generally had some training and are licensed, come to us with inadequate braking skills. It’s super important to understand and regularly practice emergency braking on your bike. Normally I recommend a quiet car park with a slight up-hill.

To understand braking we must first understand grip. The main contributor to grip is the weight or load on each tire. The ratio between the maximum possible grip and the vertical load is called the coefficient of friction (μ). To understand this, slide an eraser across your kitchen table. Now try the same thing pushing down hard on the eraser.

This same thing happens when you brake on a motorcycle. The bike pitches forward transferring weight onto the front wheel, increasing front tire grip. More so with sports bikes, tall with short wheelbase compared to cruisers, which are long and low.

motoDNA: Getting a Grip on the Mechanics of Trail Braking

03/07/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Mark McVeigh18 COMMENTS

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On the track, racers are either on the throttle or on the brakes – no free wheeling – this wastes time. Trail braking is a technique which racers use to slow the bike as quickly as possible from one speed (on the straight) to another (corner apex speed).

In applying this technique, a racer will approach a turn and at their braking marker, apply full braking force, normally with the bike being upright.

As the rider begins to turn in, they reduce brake pressure, easing off the brakes. Decreasing or “trailing” the brake lever force as the bike lean angle increases until they gets to the apex, the rider then releases the brake and applies the throttle.

Sounds easy enough in theory, but proper execution is complicated because it comes down to feel — and remember these guys are doing this seamlessly, every lap on the limit.

As Freddie Spencer once said, “fast riders have slow hands” so all this is done smoothly, progressively and powerfully.

motoDNA: The Importance of Vision & Connecting the Dots

02/28/2014 @ 3:43 pm, by Mark McVeigh6 COMMENTS

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Look where you want to go! Steer the bike with your eyes! You go where you look! How often have we motorcyclists heard these phrases?

Looking where you want to go obviously relates to vision, an important sense for everyday life; however when we introduce motorcycles, the importance of vision increases dramatically, not just as an essential tool for high performance riding and racing, but also for survival on the road.

The fact is most of us are damaging our vision, namely our peripheral vision, with our modern lifestyle of sitting in front of TV and computer screens. Compared to our ancestors, our visual field has narrowed dramatically.

If we get into the habit of looking directly at objects while restricting the awareness of our surrounding field of view, it’s comparable to not fully using other areas of our body.

For example if we routinely only bend our knee ten degrees, you could imagine this bad habit of restricted movement would ultimately lead to poor function, soreness, and long-term damage.

It’s safe to assume that our vision also follows the familiar “use it or lose it” rule that is evident in other areas of our body. In other words, if we only use one part of our visual field, the rest of our visual circuitry will begin to go inactive. So how important is peripheral vision to our riding and what can we do to increase our visual performance?

motoDNA: Bimota Tesi 3D E Track Test

02/21/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Mark McVeigh15 COMMENTS

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The Emilia Romagna region of Italy is a melting pot for the Italian motorcycle industry. Positioned in the middle of this province, also known as the “terra dei motori” or the land of engines, sits the motorcycle company known as Bimota.

In September 1972 the now famous designer Massimo Tamburini crashed his Honda 750 Four at Misano racetrack — the stack left him with three broken ribs. While recovering from his unfortunate incident, he constructed a tubular steel frame to handle the horsepower then being produced by the Japanese bikes.

The frame he constructed lowered the centre of gravity and reduced the weight of the original Honda. Called the HB1, the first Bimota was born. Bimota’s name is derived from its founders’ initials: Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini.

Bimota has a rich racing heritage and has carried such great names as Virginio Ferrari, Davide Tardozzi, and Randy Mamola. Also who could forget Anthony ‘Go Show’ Goberts awesome WSBK victory at a wet Philip island in 2000 aboard the Bimota SB8R!

Born from a young university graduate’s mind, it was Engineer Pierluigi Marconi’s university thesis (Tesi in Italian) that directly led to the Bimota Tesi 1D hub-center steered motorcycle in 1990, the 1, 2 and 3D standing for the various Ducati engines used in the models.

motoDNA: The Jerkiness of Jerky Motorcycle Throttles

02/14/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Mark McVeigh34 COMMENTS

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Asphalt & Rubber is please to bring you the motoDNA column, which will be written by our good friend Mark McVeigh, of the motoDNA Motorcycle Academy.

Mark is a former international 250cc racer, as well as a former MotoGP engineer. His unique experience and perspectives on motorcycle dynamics and racing will be a regular feature on A&R. Enjoy!

In these high tech days of electronic fuel injection, you would expect motorcycle throttle response to be smooth as. However many of the latest bikes have a snatchy and jerky throttle response; especially around town at low speeds — feeling more like a switch than a throttle.

This is not just plain annoying, but makes holding a steady throttle in corners and riding in town tricky, often becoming a bigger problem in wet and slippery conditions. On the track, life can be even more difficult when the bike is closer to the edge of the tire, due to higher lean angles.

The throttle controls not only acceleration and traction but has a large influence on our bikes handling including weight transfer, steering and stability. The throttle is also our connection to the rear tire. If it’s linear and smooth, this is reflected in our riding performance.

We expect modern bikes to have smooth and accurate throttle response; but in fact throttle response is worse these days compared to carburettors of old. Why? In one word – Emissions.