Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Kurt Caselli Has Died While Competing in the Baja 1000

11/16/2013 @ 8:28 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Kurt Caselli Has Died While Competing in the Baja 1000 kurt caselli ktm 635x423

We bring you unfortunate news from the Baja California Peninsula, as we have gotten word that American Kurt Caselli has died while competing in the 2013 Baja 1000 off-road race.

Leading the race on his factory-supported KTM, early reports indicated that Caselli crashed after hitting a booby trap (an all too common feature of the Baja 1000) around the 796-mile mark, and later succumbed to injuries to his head.

However, a post to Instagram by FMF’s Donny Emler Jr. says that is not the case, and that Kurt’s crash was merely a racing incident, and did not occur near any spectators. Press statements from both KTM and the Baja 1000 organizers can be read here, and suggest that Caselli’s motorcycle came in contact with an animal, which likely caused his crash.

Red Bull Straight Rhythm = Real Life Excitbike Course

11/12/2013 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Red Bull Straight Rhythm =  Real Life Excitbike Course excitebike

As a member of the Nintendo-generation, nothing tickles my fancy more than to see an homage to some of the classics, and for motorcyclists is there any title more prolific than Excitebike? I think not. So it warms my gamer hearts to see that Red Bull has explored the idea of a real-life Excitebike course with its “straight rhythm” project.

Red Bull says that the course is “an innovative evolution of supercross where a track is ‘unwound’ — there are no turns, just a half-mile-long straight rhythm section. By isolating the whoops, triples, doubles, table tops and step on/offs, riders must focus exclusively on reading the terrain directly in front of them, correctly judging their speed for precise distance and control.”

To us, it looks like the energy drink company is hoping to make the Red Bull Straight Rhythm a new type of racing spectacle, and is using names like James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Marvin Musquin, Jessy Nelson, Cole Seely, and Justin Bogle to hock the new course format. Check it out after the jump, and be sure to pick who you are rooting for before they get started.

Husqvarna to Unveil New Prototype Motorcycle at EICMA

11/01/2013 @ 4:55 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Husqvarna to Unveil New Prototype Motorcycle at EICMA husqvarna prototype teaser

The future of Husqvarna is an interesting one to mull over right now as we gear-up for the EICMA show in Milan, Italy next week. Recently acquired by KTM’s Stefan Pierer, through is Pierer Industrie AG company, Husqvarna finds itself now merged into Husaberg, as KTM has consolidated its splintered dirt bike brands back into one cohesive effort.

That move alone in an interesting one, as Husqvarna had begun tackling the on-road world while still under the stewardship of BMW Motorrad — releasing models like the Husqvarna Nuda 900 and concepts like the Husqvarna Moab. The brand now seems destined to stay in the dirt though, but that isn’t keeping Husqvarna away from releasing prototypes and concepts at EICMA, as it seems to do every year.

You Shall Not Pass!

08/09/2013 @ 5:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Congratulations on making it to Friday. For some, the journey to the end of the work week was tougher than it was for others. Thanks for the tip Crisit!

Video: 2,600 Miles Around the Himalayan Mountains

08/01/2013 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Video: 2,600 Miles Around the Himalayan Mountains himalayan mountain dirt bike trek 635x356

It’s Thursday afternoon, and you are probably sitting in a cube filing TPS reports when you should be out riding. Might we suggest a stroll around the Himalayas?

If the bossman overlords won’t let you out, then here is the next best thing, as Adam Riemann and his father documented their 4,500 km (2,600 mile), 21-day, multi-national trek across some of the world’s most treacherous, and beautiful, mountain roads.

The narration and story are a bit tough, but the sights are worth the price of admission alone. From the crowded streets of India to the empty solitude of the mountain passes, the Riemann boys seem to have hit every extreme.

We imagine there many more stories that the film doesn’t capture in its roughly six-minute format. To hear those though, you probably will have to undertake the trip yourself. Bring your Pops along too, if you go.

Thinking of Off-Roading a Ducati Hypermotard SP?

07/26/2013 @ 3:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Thinking of Off Roading a Ducati Hypermotard SP? ducati hypermotard sp off road 635x423

When a press bike shows up at your doorstep, the miles on the odometer betray the sights and stories the bike could tell about its relatively short existence thus far.

At just nearly 2,000 miles, our little Ducati Hypermotard SP in the normal world would have stories of high-fives at the Ducatisti bike nights, hours spent in the parking lot outside of the local Starbucks, and maybe some tall tales of a wheelie or two.

But sort of on-par with dog-years, press-bike miles act as a multiplying factor, when in regards to the maturing of the machine. So with our machine at 2,000 miles, well that’s a bike that has really been around the block. Burnt clutches, blown fork seals, and chewed-up tires — those all likely describe this little SP’s first stop on the magazine tour bus, so multiply accordingly dear reader.

It is rare though that you really get to see/hear what the machine has gone through before it gets to you, but a quick check of the license plate in the video after the jump confirms that this “pretty impressive machine” has found its way into our hands. As far as we can tell so far, the description fits.

Here’s Your Feel Good Moment of the Week — Now, What’s Your Excuse for Not Riding Today?

06/06/2013 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Heres Your Feel Good Moment of the Week    Now, Whats Your Excuse for Not Riding Today?  darius glover paralyzed motocross 635x423

Darius Glover (Facebook & Twitter) is a dirt bike racer. Like you and me, he lives to ride, and when he is on two-wheels he feels the freedom that only other motorcyclists can truly understand. The thing is though, Darius is paralyzed from the waist down.

Where others would give up their dreams and this sport, Darius at the age of 15 instead pushed onward. No pity parties, no excuses, just simply a daily example of where there is a will, there is a way, and a reminder that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to.

It’s hard not to get a bit choked up listening to Darius tell his story, but you walk away feeling uplifted after feeling his attitude come across the screen. The dude has his head on straight, that’s for sure, and we all could take a lesson from his example. “Everything is on point when you’re on a bike — you feel like Superman.” Isn’t that the truth brother. Keep riding, keep racing. Thanks for the tip Audrey!

Erzberg Rodeo – Red Bull’s S&M Playhouse for Motorcycles

06/05/2013 @ 6:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Erzberg Rodeo   Red Bulls S&M Playhouse for Motorcycles 2013 Red Bull Ezrberg Rodeo Hare Scramble hard enduro 04 635x423

There is nothing about the Erzberg Rodeo that appeals to me, other than the fact that it is totally bonkers, awesome, and horrible all rolled into one single-day event (there’s a reason this site is called Asphalt & Rubber).

Any race where 1,500 riders start, 500 qualify, and only 14 finish, has got to be an epic competition, and considering the fact that the Erzberg Rodeo starts in the excavation pit of an Austrian mine…well, it takes a special rider to be enticed by such an event.

One such special rider is Graham Jarvis, who was the first of the fourteen men to reach the 20th and final checkpoint. Taking 2 hours and 52 seconds to complete the course, Jarvis made the 2013 Erzberg Rodeo look downright easy.

However, with one look at the race-day conditions from this past weekend, we know it was anything but. Take a look for yourself after the jump — race results are here.

Husqvarna & Husaberg Will “Reunite” After 25 Years Apart

05/16/2013 @ 3:47 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Husqvarna & Husaberg Will Reunite After 25 Years Apart husaberg husqvarna 635x423

Ever since Pierer Industrie AG bought Husqvarna from the BMW Group, there has been a great deal of speculation as to how the Italian-based Swedish-born brand would fit within the KTM empire. With zie Austrians needing another dirt bike marque like a hole in the head, it was curious to see KTM add a third off-road brand name to its stable of two-wheeled machines.

Adding even more intrigue to the situation, Stefan Pierer announced that he would discontinue Husqvarna’s pursuit of on-road machines with his acquisition, starting with the Husqvarna Nuda 900, and that he would also be closing down the bulk of the brand’s very beleaguered Italian operations, much to the chagrin of local officials and worker unions.

Now, the next chapter of Husqvarna is set to unfold, with the announcement of a new company, Husqvarna Sportmotorcycle GmbH, which unsurprisingly will be based in Mattighofen, Austria and will build off the technology that Husaberg has developed, while using the more recognizable Husqvarna name.

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee

05/07/2013 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee husqvarna nuda 900r black 635x423

Stefan Pierer’s acquisition of Husqvarna continues to baffle me. You will note I say Pierer, and not KTM, bought Husqvarna, since the Austrian CEO used Pierer Industrie AG in the transaction as a means to help side-step European antitrust issues. After all, we can’t have Europe’s largest dirt bike manufacturer, nay largest total motorcycle manufacturer, gobbling up even more brands in the two-wheeled world. But, I digress.

For as big of an issue as it might be that KTM, by proxy, has swallowed another dirt bike brand, I still do not understand the thinking behind this madness. Dropping to four-digit yearly sales, it wasn’t until BMW started taking the off-road brand into the on-road market did signs of growth appear again at Husky.

Developing three road bikes (Husqvarna Nuda 900, Husqvarna Strada 650, & Husqvarna Terra 650), with three more concepts waiting in the wings (Husqvarna Moab, Husqvarna Baja, & Husqvarna E-G0), it is with even more confusion that we learn that Pierer & Co. intend to kill the Husqvarna Nuda project and its other street siblings.