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.

The BMW R nineT Urban G/S Helps Us Remember When the Dakar Rally Still Raced to Dakar

11/08/2016 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Our Bothan Spies came through once again this EICMA season, bringing us news that the BMW Lac Rose Concept would enter production as the 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S motorcycle.

As the name implies, the Urban G/S is based off the BMW R nineT platform, which means that it uses the iconic 1,170cc, 110hp, air-cooled, boxer-twin engine as its base, and then builds out from there.

As such, the chassis is the same modular frame that powers the rest of the R nineT line, complete with telescoping fork suspension at the front, along with a 19″ wheel wire-spoked wheel in the front, and a 17″ wire-spoked wheel in the rear.

All of this means that the BMW R nineT is mostly an aesthetic exercise – but it is quite the exercise, if you want our opinion.

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2017 BMW R1200GS Gets Upgrades, And a Little Rallye

11/08/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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As expected, the BMW R1200GS is getting some updates for the 2017 model year. Beyond the anticipated engine refresh for Euro4 compliance – which sees the 2017 BMW R1200GS continuing to make 125hp at 7,750 rpm, thanks to a new catalytic converter and modified ECU settings – other improvements have also been made to this iconic machine.

The changes run the gamut, and include visual changes to the bodywork, mechanical updates for better operation, ergonomic refinements to the controls, and electronic upgrades to the standard and optional equipment.

BMW Motorrad has also made several model variations available of the 2017 BMW R1200GS, shown here is the very tasty BMW R1200GS Rallye, which shows an off-road focus with its rally seat, sport windshield, radiator and frame guards, wide enduro foot pegs, and spoked wheels with optional studded tires.

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Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.

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2017 BMW G310GS Debuts with 300cc of ADV

11/08/2016 @ 3:44 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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One of the four new motorcycles we were expecting to see from BMW at the 2016 EICMA show, the BMW G310GS adds a small-displacement model to the German brand’s already iconic adventure-touring line.

Based off the BMW G310R street bike, the 313cc single-cylinder platform has been reworked for dual-sport riding, offering not only a smaller ADV machine for adventure enthusiasts, but also an entry point into the BMW brand via one of its best-selling segments.

As such, the GS model gains some suspension travel (1.6″ in the front, 2″ in the rear) over its street bike sibling, the styling is obviously a nod towards the rest of the GS line, namely the best-selling R1200GS, and the ergonomics have been reworked for adventure-style riding.

Power is rated at just under 34hp, with a curb weight of 374 lbs.

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Oh My! The Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports Concept

11/08/2016 @ 2:13 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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File the Honda Africa Twin Enduro Sports concept under things we like, as the adventure-bike concept takes perhaps the most off-road competent ADV bike on the market, and raises its dirt credit by another factor of ten.

Built off the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, the Enduro Sports concept is intended to expand the Africa Twin family, and to help the new adventure bike attract more riders into its Cult of Brap.

To do this, Honda’s R&D department came up with several lighter weight chassis components (Honda does say what specifically, of course), which were initially developed for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike, which competes in the Dakar Rally.

The styling is aggressive, especially with the revised headlight assembly. The windscreen and fairings have been re-styled for a sportier look as well, and of course the Termignoni exhaust system is eye-catching, in utilitarian sort of way. Overall, the effect is quite stark.

Honda concept bikes have a funny way of becoming production models in a year or two’s time. As such, we wouldn’t mind have one in our garage. Would you?

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Honda X-ADV, A Scooter You Didn’t Know You Wanted

11/08/2016 @ 12:11 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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You have to admit, the idea of an ADV scooter is less than obvious. That hasn’t stopped Big Red from dreaming it, though.

Finally debuting at EICMA, we get the full monty on the Honda X-ADV, a step-through scooter design that’s designed to tackle more than just city traffic and potholed tarmac.

Based off the 745cc parallel-twin platform that powers the Honda Integra scooter and Honda NC750 progeny, the Honda X-ADV makes 54hp, features a dual-clutch transmission (DCT), and gets 65 miles per gallon in fuel consumption.

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Honda CRF250L Rally Finally Debuts

11/07/2016 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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We have been waiting for the Honda CRF250L Rally to debut for a long time now.

It has been 20 months since Big Red first showed us the Honda CRF250 Rally concept in Japan, and today in at the EICMA show Italy, the 2017 Honda CRF250L Rally finally broke cover.

The idea behind the Dakar-inspired machine is pretty simple. Take the venerable Honda CRF250L platform, and add pieces to make it mimic the design for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike.

The result is a lightweight adventure bike that appeases those riders who feel ADV machines are to big and heavy.

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Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – Got Roost?

11/07/2016 @ 9:53 am, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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As expected for EICMA, Ducati has two new models to add to its Scrambler sub-brand, the first being the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – a long-suspension Scrambler model with some added off-road chops.

The name is of note, giving a nod to the scrambler-style street bikes that competed in events like the iconic LA-Barstow-Vegas races several decades ago.

Picking up on that vintaged past, Ducati has unsurprisingly created its own modern riff on the dirt sled style, and produced a proper scrambler at the same time.

Now with five models in its Scrambler lineup, Ducati finally has a machine that is ready to get its feet properly dirty. We expect this bike to be a big hit with a wide gamut of riders who are looking for back-to-basics dual-sport machines.

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Alta Motors Beats Gas Bikes at Red Bull Straight Rhythm

10/25/2016 @ 3:15 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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A bit of history was made this past weekend, at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Pomona, California.

Amongst the star-studded lineup of riders who competed head-to-head in the straight-line supercross races, we were also treated to the return of Josh Hill, who pulled himself out of retirement to ride the electric-powered Alta Motors Redshift MX.

Winning his quarter-final heat, Hill gave Alta Motors its first national-level supercross win, the first for an electric motorcycle. However, succumbing to Mitchell Oldenburg in the semi-finals, Hill finished the day fourth overall, meaning Alta Motors narrowly missed out on a podium debut.

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Checkout This Historic Suzuki DR-Z Dakar Rally Race Bike

10/10/2016 @ 1:03 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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One of the gems on display at the INTERMOT expo in Cologne, Germany this year was this Dakar Rally race bike, built off the Suzuki DR-Z dual-sport model. A predecessor to the bikes that share its name now, these DR-Z750 and DR-Z800 bikes were the OG of adventure bikes.

The modern-day equivalent now is the DR-Z400, which comes to the US both in a dual-sport and supermoto trims. Despite closing in on its second decade of service, the DR-Z400 remains a popular model, offering a reliable motorcycle package at an affordable price.

As a rally raid racer, the Suzuki DR-Z400 offers a reliable and affordable racing platform for privateers, and if you look far enough down the entry list of races like the Dakar Rally, you will find this venerable dirt bike listed.

This particular DR-Z800 was raced by Belgian Gaston Rahier, a two-time Dakar Rally winner (’84 & ’85) on the BMW R100GS, but during the 1989 Dakar Rally, he campaigned this Suzuki with the Hessler Rallye Team.

Rahier’s race bike is a cool piece of history, and it is an interesting glimpse into a piece of Suzuki’s past that should be remembered.

The headlines out of INTERMOT have been about the return of the King of Superbikes, so its easy to forget that Suzuki’s success go beyond the road racing paddock. Hopefully we’ll see a follow-up on great bikes like these from Suzuki, now that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has awoken from its slumber.

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