The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically. Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course. That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

New 937cc Ducati Hypermotard 939 Outed for 2016

In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board. The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard, the up-spec Hypermotard SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada. Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox. These Hypers surely represent three of Ducati’s upcoming nine models set to be released at the 2016 EICMA show, and we have to say that we are looking forward to seeing what the Italian marque has done with what is surely our favorite motorcycle on the market.

2016 Ducati 959 Panigale Revealed in CARB Documents

It appears one of our predictions for the 2016 model year has been confirmed, as Ducati is set to update its “supersport” model, the Ducati 899 Panigale, with a replacement. Outed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), we know that the new model will come with a two-cylinder engine, with a 955cc displacement, and officially be called the Ducati 959 Panigale. This move continues Ducati’s push away from race legal sport bikes, instead choosing to showcase the fact that the company can make larger displacement machines that still rival supersport’s in weight. The 899 Panigale was exactly this, and we expect the 959 Panigale to be the same. We also expect the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale to officially debut at the upcoming EICMA show, as one of Ducati’s nine new models to be released.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, Coming to the USA

It seems our hopes have been answered, as the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto has been confirmed for the US market, for the 2016 model year. We already knew that the 701 would be available in Europe, starting in November 2015, but word for other markets was non-existent. Now clarifying things, Husqvarna has confirmed that the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto will be at dealerships in the USA, as well as other markets, start in February 2016. Yes, that means you too can now own a KTM 690 SMC R, dressed in blue and white. A machine we’ve known about since last year’s EICMA show, the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto features 690cc engine that makes 67hp along with a 320 lbs ready-to-go sans fuel.

How Would You Redesign the Bimota Mantra?

When you hear the name Bimota, you likely picture in your head bespoke and beautiful Italian motorcycles that borrow some of the most potent engines from motorcycle manufacturers and then build motorcycling exotica around them. Just about every Bimota is a highly coveted collectible…just about. For some reason the Bimota Mantra is more infamous than famous, it’s design was ahead of its time, to say it politely. I know a few collectors who love the Mantra, and have a few in their collections, but the bulk of the two-wheeled public would rather forget the Mantra was ever penned, and that the V Due was ever built. Asked what he would build if he had to recreate the Bimota Mantra, designer Sacha Lakic (the artist who was behind the original Mantra, and more currently, the Voxan Wattman) inked the above sketch.

The Honda RC213V-S Isn’t Sold Out…Yet

Do you want a MotoGP bike in your garage (or living room, as the case will likely be)? Do you have $184,000 and then some, burning a hole in your pocket? Do you like not living in a house, but think carbon fiber fairings will keep you warm at night? If you said yes to any of those questions, you should buy a Honda RC213V-S. In seriousness, if owning a Honda RC213V-S is a notion that does strike you, then you better hurry up with your order. This is because we asked Honda how orders were coming with the RC213V-S, and the Japanese brand responded that reservations for the MotoGP-bike-for-the-street are quite abundant, indeed. Building one bike a day, Honda’s Hamamatsu factory could deliver roughly 250 units of the Honda RC213V-S in the coming year, at the maximum.

Ducati CEO Quashes Four-Cylinder Superbike Rumor

Well, the fun is over. Talking to MCN, Claudio Domenicali has laid to rest any rumors about the Ducati building a four-cylinder superbike to replace the Panigale. The news confirms what everyone already expected to be the case, as it is hard to imagine a Ducati superbike model being anything other than a v-twin, World Superbike rules be damned. “I can confirm there is no officially confirmed project at Ducati for a four-cylinder engine to replace the Panigale V-twin,” Domenicali confirmed to MCN. “There is no Ducati four-cylinder superbike planned.” Domenicali would go on to speak about knowing every approved project that is currently underway at Ducati, and that no such four-cylinder project is in the works, though the company certain explores every idea before going forward.

Volkswagen Ordered to Sell Its Stake in Suzuki

The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing. Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night. Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.

Official: Yamaha Returns to World Superbike for 2016

An announcement that has been expected for quite a while now, Yamaha is officially returning to the World Superbike Championship for the 2016 season. The news comes after nearly a season of competition for the Yamaha YZF-R1 in other classes, which has seemingly given Yamaha Motor Europe the confidence to support a factory team in the premier production racing series. Helping Yamaha in that endeavor will be the experience WSBK outfit of Crescent Racing, who will run the day-to-day operations of the team, while Yamaha Racing develops the racing platform and strategy. Yamaha’s return is already well-formed, as both Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes will be riding for the factory team. Additionally, Yamaha Racing has already secured PATA as the team’s title sponsor.

Nine New Ducati Models for 2016

We all know the new model season is upon us, and Ducati has wasted no time in already letting slip two new models for the 2016 model year: the Ducati Monster 1200 R and the Ducati Diavel Carbon. The Bologna Brand has a few more tricks up its sleeve, as it plans to debut nine new models at the upcoming EICMA show in Milan. In addition to that, Ducati says we can expect machines the will push the company into two market segments that the Italian brand is not in with its current lineup. We have obviously already seen the Monster R and the Diavel Carbon, and we can likely expect to see Ducati update its 899 line, and add more models to the Scrambler line. There are even rumors of a new Streetfighter, though the release of the Monster R seems to make that unlikely.

Going Viral: Motorcycling’s Lady Trope Problem

11/09/2013 @ 8:21 am, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS


About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post that compared two sets of photos that had been done by Portland, Oregon Ducati dealership MotoCorsa. The first set was called “seDUCATIve” and featured a model name Kylie and the Ducati 1199 Panigale — you can imagine what those photos looked like.

MotoCorsa did something interesting with its second set of photos though, which were titled “MANigale”. Featuring male mechanics from the dealership, these good-humored lads recreated Kylie’s poses with the Panigale, complete with heels, tube tops, and booty shorts. It was good fun, and since I have a personal vendetta with the “girl on a bike” trope of motorcycle marketing, it made for good commentary as well.

The seDUCATIve vs. MANigale article was a fairly popular story on Asphalt & Rubber, it had its couple days of fame, and that was that — or so I thought. For the past month now, the MANigale story has been hitting various more mainstream outlets worldwide — much to my surprise, but also delight.

Why Asphalt & Rubber Supports Riders for Health

10/03/2013 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS


You would have to be living in a hole not to have heard about the video footage of a Range Rover plowing through a group of motorcyclists, and the chase through New York that ensued afterwards.

I say this not because the video has been the highest trafficked article on Asphalt & Rubber this week so far, though it is; nor do I say this because the video has been posted to virtually every motorcycle forum and blog on the internet, though it has; but instead because the video has elevated itself out of our obscure sport and into the national, if not international, public consciousness.

It is rare that motorcycling finds its way into mass media, and unfortunately it is rarely a good thing when it does so. Motorcycling by and large has an image problem in the United States. Few motorists commute via motorcycle, which means our industry is filled with people who come to motorcycles from either a hobby, sport, or lifestyle perspective, and because of this motorcycles remain on the fringe of mainstream society.

For some, that is the allure. Motorcycling is “something different’ which in turns allows a motorcyclist to express their individuality in an obvious manner. To illustrate this point, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of flame threads that start on forums and blogs can be boiled down to the premise that because your enjoyment of motorcycles is different from my enjoyment of motorcycles, it therefore must be wrong.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Op-Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots

06/23/2013 @ 9:27 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS


In 1952, Doris Lessing, a Nobel prize-winning author, was one of a group of writers and prominent intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union, then in the iron grip of Joseph Stalin, one of history’s greatest criminals and murderers. She was introduced to the political leaders of the country, and escorted around the nation by the Russian secret police. Lessing, along with the others on the trip, returned home to write gushing praise of the Soviet Union, describing it as ‘a land of hope.’

In her later years, Lessing wrote a damning condemnation of her own naiveté during the visit. “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.” She had seen only what had been shown to her, believed what her guides – all of whom worked for the secret police – told her, and accepted the testimony of the workers she spoke to, workers who had been carefully selected, and briefed to project the right message, or sufficiently intimidated to not let any of the real truth slip.

A ‘useful idiot’ is exactly how I feel all too often working in the MotoGP paddock. With no formal training in journalism, and only my gut instinct to follow, it is hard to sift out the underlying facts from the fiction being projected all around me. Most of motorcycle racing journalism – in fact, most of sports journalism – relies almost entirely on the word of others.

A journalist will speak to a rider, or a team manager, or an engineer, or a press officer, and write a news story based on what they have just been told. If they are a good journalist, they will try and verify what they have been told by checking with other sources. If they want to sell newspapers, they will write what suits them, and let the checking be damned.

Barbera Speaks Out about Assault Charges – Eh, Not Really

05/13/2013 @ 6:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS


On Friday, reports came out of Jerez that MotoGP rider Hector Barbera had been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. With the case handled by Spain’s special domestic violence courts, Barbera received a sentence of six months in jail, while his girlfriend also received five months in jail, as she was also found guilty of assaulting Barbera in the exchange. With details of the event seemingly under lock and key by the court’s proceedings, speculation has been rife about the incident.

Hoping to set the record straight, Barbera has released a clarifying statement via his Facebook page, though it does little to shed more light on the situation, and reinforces some very disturbing notions already held about misogyny in Spain, and by proxy MotoGP as well. Stressing that he himself was a victim, as was found by the court, Barbera adds that he would “never think on hurting or damaging any person, no matter woman or men, ” and is adamant that he is “firmly against any type of mistreatment or abuse to anyone.”

That is an interesting statement considering that Barbera’s presumably now ex-girlfriend, identified only by her initials D.P., was sent to the hospital with visible bruising because of Barbera’s own actions. To be fair, Barbera’s own injuries have not been a topic of much discussion, and he is presumed to have suffered some form of battery as well, which presumably makes what he did more justifiable — at least, that seems to be the point Barbera is trying to make in his statement.

Looking at the story from American eyes and predispositions, a man assaulting a woman, whether provoked or not, is automatically cast as the guilty party — it is perhaps the one ironic role-reversal in America’s own battle with sexism and misogyny in its socio-legal systems. As one of my legal colleagues said to me, “a speedy trial, and both parties getting punished? That would never happen here in the United States.” Quite right.

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee

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


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.

Motorcycle Racing vs. Social Media: How Dorna Could Turn Losing the Battle into Winning the War

03/11/2013 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS


When the news that Dorna would be taking over World Superbikes broke, there was a wave of outrage among fans, expressing the fear that the Spanish company would set about destroying the series they had grown to love.

So far, Dorna has been careful not to get involved in debates about the technical regulations which seem to be so close to fans’ hearts, its only criteria so far appearing to be a demand that bikes should cost 250,000 euros for an entire season.

Yet it has already make one move which has a serious negative impact on the series: it is clamping down on video footage from inside the paddock.

There was some consternation – and there is still some confusion – about the situation at the first round of WSBK at Phillip Island at the end of February. Where previously, teams and journalists had been free to shoot various videos inside the paddock, there were mixed signals coming from Dorna management, with some people told there was an outright and immediate ban, with threats of serious consequences should it be ignored, while others were saying that they had heard nothing on the subject.

That Dorna is determined to reduce the amount of free material on YouTube became immediately clear after the race weekend was over: in previous years, brief, two-minute race summaries would appear on the official World Superbike Youtube channel after every weekend. After the first race of 2013, only the post-race interviews were posted on the site. It is a long-standing Dorna policy to try to strictly control what ends up on YouTube and what doesn’t. It is its most serious mistake, and one which could end up badly damaging the sport unless it is changed very soon.

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici

02/19/2013 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS


Just over 18 months ago, I wrote a long analysis of what I believed at the time was the main problem with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP machine. In that analysis, I attributed most of the problems with the Desmosedici to the chosen angle of the V, the angle between the front and rear cylinder banks.

By sticking with the 90° V, I argued, Ducati were creating problems with packaging and mass centralization, which made it almost impossible to get the balance of the Desmosedici right. The engine was taking up too much space, and limiting their ability to adjust the weight balance by moving the engine around.

Though there was a certain logic to my analysis, it appears that the engine angle was not the problem. Yesterday, in their biweekly print edition, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto published an article by Neil Spalding, who had finally obtained photographic evidence that the Honda RC213V uses a 90° V, the same engine angle employed by the Ducati Desmosedici. Given the clear success of the Honda RC213V, there can no longer be any doubt that using a 90° V is no impediment to building a competitive MotoGP machine.

The photographic proof comes as confirmation of rumors which had been doing the rounds in the MotoGP paddock throughout the second half of the 2012 season. Several people suggested that the Honda may use a 90° angle, including Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi, speaking to back in November.

I had personally been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a naked RC213V engine at one rain-soaked race track in September, but while the glimpse through the window may have been good enough to form the impression of an engine that looked like it may have been a 90°V, it was a very long way from being anything resembling conclusive, and nowhere near enough to base a news story on.

Spalding’s persistence has paid off, however. The British photographer and journalist is a common sight wandering among the garages, either first thing in the morning, as the bikes are being warmed up, or late at night, while the mechanics prepare the machines for the following day.

At some point, the Honda mechanics and engineers – protective to the point of prudishness of displaying any part of their machine to the outside world – would let their guard slip. When they did, Spalding pounced.

So why did Honda elect to use an engine layout which is blamed for causing Ducati so much trouble? And how does Honda make the layout work where Ducati have continued to fail? The first question is relatively simple to answer; the second is a good deal more tricky.

January 2013: The MotoGP & WSBK Story, So Far

02/02/2013 @ 3:06 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS


With the first full test for the World Superbike class behind us, and the first test of the MotoGP grid about to get underway at Sepang at the end of this week, it is time to take a look at motorcycle racing’s pre-season, and evaluate where we stand so far. Just what is the state of play for both MotoGP and World Superbike in 2013?

The question is even more pertinent now that both series have been taken under the wing of Dorna, much to the consternation of World Superbike fans and, to some extent, the WSBK paddock as well. It was feared that Dorna would either kill off World Superbike entirely to strengthen the position of MotoGP, or impose such stringent technical regulations on the series as to dumb it down to Superstock spec.

Fortunately, neither of those options looks likely. World Superbikes will continue as a separate series, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was keen to explain when quizzed about the takeover at Ducati’s Wrooom launch event early in January. The aim is to build a strong WSBK series to stand alongside MotoGP, preserving the unique identity of the two series – WSBK as a place to race production bikes, MotoGP as the series for racing prototypes.

But exactly how should the phrase “production bikes” be interpreted? As a hotted up version of the road-going model, as is the intention of Superstock, or as a genuine racing machine built using the production bike as a basis, which is much closer to what some regard as the ethos of WSBK? The answer, it appears, will lie somewhere in the middle, and the factories will have a major say in how this all turns out.

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet?

01/07/2013 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS


Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we spend some pixels talking about the finer points of helmet usage, especially when it comes to the debate regarding mandatory helmet laws. Looking at helmets from 50 years ago, and the basic concept hasn’t changed all that much in the time since.

A hard shell, some impact material, and a soft lining mated to a visor and chin-strap system, over the last half-century most of the improvements to the basic helmet design have been for added fit and comfort, or cheaper and lighter materials — even the more creative and innovative designs that are being hocked around the internet right now don’t stray far from the current concept.

Think 50 years ahead though, and it is hard to imagine the same shapes and designs staying constant. In fact, it becomes possible to imagine motorcyclists wearing no helmets at all. No, I am not talking about some sort of libertarian movement that will rush through our political system, freeing us from the shackles of big government.

Instead, I am talking about the true next-generation of safety devices for the gray matter that resides between your ears, which might put the mandatory helmet law debate to rest (well…probably not).