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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

01/11/2017 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R.

BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go.

With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

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Honda Africa Twin Supermoto Concept by Nicolas Petit

10/17/2016 @ 4:46 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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The Honda Africa Twin doesn’t lend itself naturally to a supermoto format, though it is one of the most capable off-road adventure bikes on the market, but you have to admit that this photoshop render by French designer Nicolas Petit is very intriguing.

Maybe it’s our obvious bias towards anything supermoto that is talking, or maybe it’s that there is something to the idea of taking the Africa Twin, adding 17” wheels, and lowering it just enough that riders can actually flat-foot the machine while sitting on it.

Add in some styling cues that scream “supermotard” and you have a very handsome machine that is ready to conquer anything the urban environment can throw at it. Hell, it’s probably just a scary clown costume away from a good time on a gravel road. Right??!

We doubt Honda has any eyes on offering a more on-road version of the CRF1000L, though if they did, and it looked like this, we might be intrigued. Just leave the DCT off of it.

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What If You Put Dustbin Fairings on Modern Sport Bikes?

10/14/2014 @ 4:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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I simply love the latest sketches from Nicolas Petit. The French designer is sort of re-imaging a previous project of his, where he designed a modern-looking dustbin-style fairing for a BMW HP2 Sport and Moto Guzzi V12 Le Mans.

Taking on now the Ducati 1199 Panigale, Petit has mixed the old-styled TT racer look with Italy’s premier superbike, in an effective manner. We haven’t seen this sort of clash between old and new technology since John Hopkins raced the last two-stroke GP bike, the Yamaha YZR500 in 2002.

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Upcoming BMW S1000F Rendered by Nicolas Petit

07/02/2014 @ 6:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Once again the folks at Wunderlich are readying themselves for another BMW model, and the German company has enlisted the services of French designer Nicolas Petit to render the upcoming BMW S1000F sport-tourer, which we are all eagerly awaiting.

Based off the BMW S1000RR sport bike, the S1000F features an upright handlebar design with a more touring-oriented sitting position, to make for better long-road travel. It’s not clear if BMW will follow the lead of Erik Buell Racing, and choose not to detune its superbike engine, but it does seem that BMW wants a bigger piece for the sporty end of the touring market.

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BMW K1600GT Hybrid 3-Wheeler Concept by Nicolas Petit

07/05/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we love the work of French designer Nicolas Petit — his Honda VTR1200 concept remains one of out all-time favorite concepts, and spurred me to think long and hard about the potential that the Japanese manufacturers could have in the two-wheel industry. Today’s post though, isn’t about a two-wheeler…it’s about a three-wheeler.

Pretty much the coolest trike we have ever seen imagined, Petit has once again inked a design for consumption, which features Bavaria’s favorite brand: BMW. Taking the 1.6L six-cylinder engine from the BMW K1600GT/GTL, Petit has mated a very recognizable front-end to his creation. The ultimate driving machine? We wouldn’t mind taking one for a spin around our local track.

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What Goes into a Motorcycle Concept Sketch?

05/02/2013 @ 3:58 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on What Goes into a Motorcycle Concept Sketch?

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We have already covered designer Nicolas Petit’s time-lapse video, which shows the 20-minute process of drawing out a motorcycle concept sketch. But what goes into envisioning a concept like the Wunderlich BMW R1200S in the first place? Well, Petit has a video for that as well.

Any interesting perspective on how the French designer takes a BMW R1200GS Adventure, turns it into a boxer-twin sport bike, and then a streetfighter, it is always facinating to see the process behind a person’s art. And if you’re thinking, “man, I wish they’d build that bike!” You’re not alone in that thought.

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How Long Does it Take You to Draw a Motorcycle?

03/04/2013 @ 4:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We spend a bit of our time here at Asphalt & Rubber featuring the work of Nicolas Petit, and other designers, sharing with you the unique visions that these artists create. Some of their work comes to fruition in three dimensions, and some of it remains in a two-dimensional form, but it is all still pretty damn impressive. But what goes into these sketches and renders?

Working on his BMW HP2 Megamoto LC Concept, Petit has condensed his 20-minute sketching routine, and put together a short three-minute time-lapse video of his work. Armed with only with a couple pens and markers, Petit makes short-work of the sketch, though we can only imagine how many hours of studying design had to come together before pen could be put to paper. Check it out after the jump.

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Wunderlich BMW R1200S Concept by Nicolas Petit

12/17/2012 @ 3:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

If you don’t follow the work of Nicolas Petit, you should. The French designer has been inking some of the most striking motorcycle concepts in the industry, and the best part is many of them are coming to life thanks to BMW accessories provider Wunderlich.

Refusing to let go of the thesis provided BMW HP2 Sport, Petit envisions BMW’s new semi water-cooled boxer engine (first seen on the 2013 BMW R1200GS) as providing the basis for a new sport bike in the HP2’s vein, complete with a single-sided swingarm, dual undertail exhaust, and Öhlins suspension.

It might be a tough sell now that the BMW S1000RR and BMW HP4 have hit dealership floors, but there is something really quite elegant in Petit’s design, and we imagine there are more than few weekend riders who wouldn’t mind such a unique machine with a boxer’s punch.

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BMW R12 Concept by Nicolas Petit Motorcycle Crèation

07/11/2012 @ 5:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The work of designer Nicolas Petit is one of those gems in motorcycling that really gets our imagination here at A&R working at high-speed. It probably has something to with Petit’s simple, practical, but stunning designs that grab our fancy, and make us think “yeah, I could see one of those in my garage” — such is the case with the BMW R12 concept.

A clean and modern café racer design, Nicolas Petit’s BMW R12, which is based off the BMW HP2, is something we’d like to have in our stable for when the journey, not the destination, is the order of the day. Enjoy his sketches and renders after the jump, and to save you the trouble when you go scavenging for boxer-twins, here’s a link to craigslist.

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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts.

While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans.

While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products.

Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

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