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.

Video: Still Think Electric Motorcycles Are Slow?

06/10/2013 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.

In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.

If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.

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Up-Close with the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni (神電 貳)

05/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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At the 2013 Isle of Man TT, when it comes to the TT Zero race, there are really only two entries being talked about: MotoCzysz and Mugen. Rumored last year to be a black hat electric superbike project for Honda, Mugen of course denies such involvement, though admits that company’s share a very special and close relationship.

Whether you believe that an association exists or not, the paddock gossip says that Mugen (or Honda) has spent nearly $4.3 million on its electric bike project, and that sounds like a number that is well within the ballpark. With John McGuinness at the helm, Mugen is taking the TT very seriously, and looking at the 120 hp Mugen Shinden Ni, you can see that the Japanese squad has spared no effort in giving McPint the most potent weapon possible.

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IOMTT: Team Mugen is Back for the 2013 TT Zero – New Lighter “Shinden 2” & Same-Sized John McGuinness

02/07/2013 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Runners-up in the 2012 TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, newcomer Team Mugen made quite the stir with its Shinden (神電) electric race bike, which was piloted by none other than TT great John McGuinness.

Announcing its intention to return for the 2013 TT Zero event, Mugen again confirms McPint as the team’s rider, and boasts of an even lighter and more refined Shinden Ni (神電弐つ), or Shinden 2, electric motorcycle.

Light on details with its new race bike, Mugen only mentions that the team has developed the Shinden Ni from the original Shinden, which has resulted in the weight of the motorcycle body and electric systems being reduced (read: less battery mass).

Mugen also says that the electric motor and aerodynamics of the motorcycle have also been analyzed and modified to make the Shinden Ni a more potent adversary.

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IOMTT: Michael Rutter Makes “The Ton” Official – Wins TT Zero with a 104.056 mph Lap

06/06/2012 @ 8:33 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

With water reported at various points on the track before the start of the 2012 SES TT Zero, there was serious concern from the riders about the racing conditions, though they would prove to be over-stated as the bikes took to the Mountain Course. With Miller, McGuinness, and Rutter all hungry to get the £10,000 bounty on the 100 mph lap barrier, the riders and teams also had serious concerns over whether the weather could prevent making the feat official.

Getting it done with “dodgy” conditions, Michael Rutter rode out to a commanding lead on his Segway MotoCzysz E1pc, and never looked back. Posting 126 mph at the Sulby Straight speed trap, Rutter made good time over the mountain, and set an official 100+ mph lap for electrics at the Isle of Man TT, with an average speed of 104.056 mph.

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Up-Close with the Mugen Shinden (神電)

05/31/2012 @ 10:15 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

It is hard to believe that it was only last November that Mugen started its electric motorcycle racing program, and drafted the first designs of the Mugen Shinden (神電) motorcycle. In four months, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors, namely MotoCzysz and Kingston University.

Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs), which means it accounts for nearly half of the bike’s weight (and likely much more than that).

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Photos: Mugen Shinden Caught Naked & Testing

05/26/2012 @ 6:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

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John McGuinness Tests the Mugen Shinden Electric Bike

03/22/2012 @ 11:24 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Right after it was made official that John McGuinness would race in the 2012 TT Zero on the Mugen Shinden, the 17-time Isle of Man TT race winner was whisked off to Motegi to test the electric superbike. McGuinness’s involvement with Mugen’s racing effort has only added further credence to the notion that the team is a front for Honda’s foray into full-size electric motorcycles (Mugen was also started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda).

Debuting the Honda RC-E concept last year, A&R has also heard reports that the Japanese OEM has been playing with electric motorcycles in various forms for almost a decade now. Despite continued reports that the Mugen Shinden is a rebadged Honda RC-E, the two bikes share almost no similarities, except of course for this whole running on electricity thing.

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More Photos & Video of the Mugen Shinden

03/05/2012 @ 11:21 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Thought to be a Honda in disguise, the Mugen Shinden (神電) broke cover this weekend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Suzuka Circuit. While the Shinden leaves a bit to be desired visually when compared to the Honda RC-E concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, underneath the bland white fairings is a carbon fiber chassis with 122 hp on tap, and a curb weight of 573 lbs. With that much weight on board, Mugen’s electric superbike is sure to have a massive battery pack, which should give MotoCzysz, Lightning, and other 2012 TT Zero contenders a run for their money…the £10,000 that is still up for grabs to the first team to crack a 100 mph lap.

Piloting the Mugen Shinden around the 37.733 mile TT course will be none other than “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness. The seventeen-time TT race winner has been keen on racing the electrics for some time now, and his involvement with the Mugen squad only adds more credibility to the belief that Honda is using the tuning outfit as a front to race its electric in a low-pressure situation (McGuinness is a contract Honda rider with the Honda TT Legends squad). Interviewed at the Morecambe Football Club, McGuinness added even more linkage between the two Japanese companies when he refered to the project as the “Mugen/Honda” electric bike.

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This is the Mugen Shinden (神電) TT Zero Electric Race Bike

03/02/2012 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Added more information & technical specifications from Mugen’s press release.

This morning we learned that John McGuinness will be Mugen’s rider in the team’s bid to break the 100 mph barrier at the 2012 TT Zero. Heavily speculated to be a stealth project by Honda (無限 / Mugen was started by Hirotoshi Honda, the son to Honda founder Soichiro Honda), much speculation has been done over what sort of bike Mugen would be bringing to the Isle of Man TT, and now we have that answer.

Called Shinden (神電), meaning “God of Electricity” in Japanese, the machine may not have the same exquisite lines of the Honda RC-E electric superbike concept, but upon closer inspection, Mugen’s electric race bike seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Breaking cover at a press conference in Suzuka, the Mugen Shinden features a brushless three-phase 90 kW (120hp) DC motor, carbon fiber swingarm, and a carbon fiber twin-spar frame design.

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