Up-Close with the Energica Ego Electric Superbike

A project from Italy’s respected engineering firm CRP Racing, I first had the opportunity to see the Energica Ego at the 2011 EICMA show. The machine wasn’t a runner at the time, as CRP was still looking for a drivetrain partner that could supplement CRP’s already extensive knowledge in chassis design. Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, and the Energica sub-brand debuted its first production electric superbike, the Ego. The naming might be a bit tough, especially for us Anglophones, but this 134hp, 143 lbs•ft superbike packs a punch, and is remarkably well-refined.

She’z Racing at Suzuka — When a Plan Comes Together

We are pleased to have Shelina Moreda writing Asphalt & Rubber’s newest column, “She’z Racing at Suzuka”, which will follow her and Melissa Paris’ venture into racing at the Suzuka 4-Hour endurance race later this month. The American Duo are making the first all-female race team at the Suzuka 4-Hour, and will be campaigning a Honda CBR600RR with the Synergy Force Moriwaki Club team. We hope that you will enjoy the unique perspective that Shelina will be sharing with us. Race day is July 25th.

Bimota BB4 Concepts by Oberdan Bezzi

I had to check the last time we showed you some of Oberdan Bezzi’s work, and it was over three months ago. The Italian designer has certainly been busy since that time though, as he has produced a number of BMW/Bimota concepts for us to ponder about. Imagining the Italian company’s current trend of using BMW power plants — as has been seen with the Bimota BB3 — Bezzi’s drawings instead use BMW Motorrad’s popular boxer engine as their base. The effect is an interesting one, as the BMW’s boxer engine has proven to be the base of the German brands Top 3 selling bikes, and has found interesting applications in the BMW R nineT modular machine, and the BMW Roadster Concept motorcycle.

Sunday Summary at Sachsenring: Marquez’s Perfect Record, Dangerous Starts, & A Spaniard-Free Zone

The former England soccer player Gary Lineker once described the sport as follows: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” It feels somehow fitting to paraphrase that quote on the day that the Germans play in the World Cup final. Motorcycle racing is a simple sport, where 23 people ride a MotoGP bike as fast as they can, and Marc Marquez always wins. He found yet another way to win at the Sachsenring. A heavy rain shower between the Moto2 race and the sighting lap for MotoGP left the grid in disarray, with about three quarters of the field heading in to swap from their wet to their dry bikes at the end of the warm up lap.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS 30th Anniversary Edition

In case you didn’t know, this is the 30th anniversary of the Ninja motorcycle line from Kawasaki. To commemorate the occasion, Big Green has already debuted the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 30th Anniversary Edition and 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 30th Anniversary Edition motorcycles, and today the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS 30th Anniversary Edition joins them. Like its sport bike brethren, this special ZX-14R comes with a special livery, which will be available to only 300 lucky owners (each unit is specially numbered). Finished in a “Firecracker Red” with “Metallic Graystone” paint, along with gold pinstriping and gold brake calipers, you can be certain that the changes are purely skin deep for this special model.

Daimler to Invest in MV Agusta as IPO Rumors Circulate?

Fresh off the European newswires, reports out of Italy are tipping motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta as looking to offer up to 30% of the company on the stock market. If true, the move would make good on MV Agusta’s hope of going public by 2016 — noticeably quite ahead of schedule. Additionally, reports out of Germany are also indicating that Daimler AG (owner of Mercedes-Benz), is looking for a minority stake in MV Agusta, and approached the Italian company these past few weeks about that possibility — a move not to dissimilar to the one that saw Audi AG acquire Ducati Motor Holding.

66,000+ Harley-Davidsons Recalled for Front-Wheel Lockup

Bad news for 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring and CVO-Touring motorcycles with ABS installed, as the Bar & Shield brand has issued a recall with the NHTSA for 66,421 motorcycles that could potentially see their front-wheel lockup unexpectedly during normal operation. The problem comes about because the affected motorcycles may have been assembled with the front brake line positioned in such a way that it could be pinched between the fuel tank and frame, causing the front brake fluid pressure to increase. If the fluid pressure does increase, it could cause the front wheel to lockup, and possibly cause a crash. To-date, five such crashes have occurred, with thankfully only minor injuries being reported.

Here’s the Honda CB300F & Yes, It’s Coming to America

We first caught wind of the 2015 Honda CB300F back in March, and at the time we didn’t expect to see the naked small-displacement machine until the autumn trade shows. Well, Honda has proven itself full of surprises, because not only has Big Red debuted the Honda CB300F to the world, but American Honda has also confirmed the model for the United States. Basically a Honda CBR300R without all of its fairings, the Honda CB300F offers a more upright sitting position, and a little bit less racer flair. Perhaps the best part about the 2015 Honda CB300F though is the price tag, which is downright affordable at $3,999 MSRP ($400 less than the CBR300R).

Is a 2015 Suzuki GSR1000 Coming?

Speculation for the 2014 trade shows is starting to trickle in, and the fine journalists at the German magazine Motorrad have for us the latest gossip regarding a new model for 2015. Confirming a great deal of speculation, Motorrad tips that we will see a Suzuki GSR1000 at October’s INTERMOT show. Call it a standard, a streetfighter, or a street naked, the GSR1000 is said to be without fairings and based off the Suzuki GSX-R1000, using the same 999cc four-cylinder engine as the superbike, albeit in an unfortunately detuned state — not to dissimilar from the Suzuki GSR750. Figures of 150hp are being banded about for power, and that might not be enough as the GSR1000, which will debut in a very crowded space, as seemingly every Japanese and European motorcycle manufacturer has a horse in this race.

Bruce Anstey Racing Yamaha YZR500 GP Bike at Classic TT

Officially the fastest man around the Isle of Man’s Snaefell Mountain Course at 132.298 mph, Bruce Anstey is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 44. Coming off his historic Isle of Man TT fortnight, the Kiwi will take part in the upcoming Isle of Man’s Classic TT as well. Starting August 23rd, Anstey will be hunting for another record-breaking lap on the course, this time aboard a very special machine: an ex-factory Yamaha YZR500 500GP bike. Smoke’m if you’ve got them, this 150hp two-stroke beast is sure to delight premix fans at the Isle’s other TT. Identical to the machine that Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, and Randy Mamola rode to victory, the YZR500 is owned by Valvoline by Padgetts Motorcycle squad.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasnt a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics first year ducati superbike model sales graph 3 635x412

Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

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

Motorcycle Racing vs. Social Media: How Dorna Could Turn Losing the Battle into Winning the War Mugello Italian GP MotoGP Sunday Jules Cisek 13 635x423

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

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici ducati desmosedici rr naked 635x423

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 GPOne.com 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.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

11/21/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa Suzuki Hayabusa 635x451

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes. I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market. Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.

It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war. It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.

Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.

Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008. It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.

Rossi, Ducati, & Yamaha: And The Winner is…

08/17/2012 @ 7:20 am, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

Rossi, Ducati, & Yamaha: And The Winner is... Valentino Rossi Ducati Corse MotoGP 635x423

So what are we to make of Valentino Rossi’s not-so-shocking decision to leave Ducati and go back to Yamaha? The initial reaction from fans and media was that the biggest losers from the move are Ducati as a manufacturer, and Rossi’s reputation as miracle worker when it comes to bike development. There is some merit in both those arguments, but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as that. Rossi’s two years at Ducati have done a lot of damage to both parties – as well as to MotoGP’s popularity and TV income – but in the end, this move could have some very positive long-term repercussions.

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarnas Year? Husqvarna sales figures 635x393

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

At the Intersection of the Future…

03/02/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

At the Intersection of the Future... Motorcycle evolution

Despite the fact that the business side of motorcycling is run by a small close-nit group of curmudgeons, Neanderthals, and Luddites, the world outside of motorcycling continues to press on without us.

And while various parts of the motorcycle industry are busy trying to figure out how to adapt to this whole new “internet” technology fad thing (it has only been commercialized for over two decades now guys), the same group of people are busy trying to maintain the same business models and practices that came from the post-World War II economy.

In other words, when it comes to technology and the motorcycle industry, we are all pretty much fucked.

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati...Ever Ducati 1199 Panigale assembly line factory 02 635x418

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199′s race track prowess.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

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

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword Nicolas Petit Honda VTR 1200 concept 02 635x368

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.

The Indian Gambit – Polaris Puts Harley-Davidson on Notice

04/20/2011 @ 6:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

The Indian Gambit   Polaris Puts Harley Davidson on Notice chess gambit 635x476

Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.

Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.

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