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.

What Brexit Really Means for the Motorcycle Industry

06/24/2016 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Coverage of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s referendum whether to continue as a member of the European Union, has largely been ignored in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t been a blip on the radar recently within our microcosm of the motorcycle industry.

But of course, the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union will have far-reaching consequences, even in our beloved little two-wheeled world.

If you check the timestamp on the most recent Paddock Pass Podcast posting, you will see that I was up late enough into the evening to get word that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with the “Leave” supporters edging out the “Remains” by the narrow margin of 1.3 million votes.

There is a lot of politics at play here, and I don’t care to rehash it, other than to say that it could be a foreshadow of what could come soon in the United States as well. What I do have to say though is an examination of how the United Kingdom leaving the European Union can and will affect the world of motorcycling.

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Opinion: On Motorcycle Racing, Danger, & Death

06/03/2016 @ 7:21 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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“MOTORSPORTS CAN BE DANGEROUS” it says on the back of my media pass, the hard card I wear around my neck and which gives me access to the paddock and the media center.

It says the same thing everywhere around the circuit: on rider passes, on the back of tickets, on signs which hang on fences around the circuit.

You see it so much that it becomes a cliché, and like all clichés it quickly loses its meaning. Until reality intervenes, and reminds us that behind every cliché lies a deep truth.

Friday brought a stark reminder. During the afternoon session of free practice for the Moto2 class, Luis Salom exited Turn 11 and got on the gas towards Turn 12.

Just before the turn, traveling at around 170 km/h, the rider caress the front brake to help the bike turn through the fast right hander of Turn 12, an engineer told me.

At that point, Salom lost control of his bike, fell off, and he and his bike headed towards the air fence which protects the wall there.

They slid across a patch of tarmac put in to help the cars if they run straight on at that corner, and Salom’s bike hit the air fence and wall, careened off the wall and into Salom, fatally injuring him.

Salom received treatment in the corner, and was then taken to a local hospital where doctors did all they could to save his life. Sadly, they could not. Luis Salom died at 4:55pm on 3rd June 2016, at the age of 24.

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Are You Ready for This Year’s Isle of Man TT?

06/01/2016 @ 1:26 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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This year marks the 97th running of the Isle of Man TT, and the two weeks of practice and racing sessions should be considered a “must attend” item on any motorcyclist’s bucket list.

The TT is a special event to attend, and I can tell you as a journalist that it is one of the more surreal motorcycle races to cover. First, there is the serenity in watching machines race on public roads, just inches sometimes from where you are sitting. There is no where else that gets you that close to the action.

And then, there is the pound of flesh that comes with the spectacle: the knowledge that statistically speaking, two racers will lose their lives over the course of the fortnight. It is sobering to know going into an event that you will likely report the death of an athlete.

Whether you are a fan of road racing or one of its detractors, I still feel that it should be compulsory to attend an Isle of Man TT before one can make comment one way or another on its continuance.

This isn’t just another motorcycle race, and this isn’t just another extreme sport; this isn’t life in the sand of the coliseum, but it’s also not going through life in the passenger seat.

There is something truly special about the Isle of Man TT, and until you experience it from beyond these words, they will just continue to seem hyperbolic.

It is easy to wax poetic about the TT – you will just have to attend one yourself to understand that. Until you do though, we aim to bring you the best Isle of Man TT coverage available over the next two weeks. So, here’s a primer of information, before we start cluttering your A&R news feed with TT postings.

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Can Cameron Beaubier Revive the Stature of US Racing?

05/26/2016 @ 6:34 pm, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

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When opportunity comes knocking, it is a fool who does not open the door. That is especially true when the opportunity is as unique as the chance to race at a World Championship level event.

Given the chance to shine on the world stage, you have to take that shot. So when Cameron Beaubier was asked to replace the injured Sylvain Guintoli inside the Pata Yamaha team for the Donington round of World Superbikes, I cannot imagine that he hesitated for very long before jumping at the chance.

As commendable as Beaubier’s choice is, it comes with some considerable risk. Not just to the reputation of Beaubier himself, but also to the standing of American motorcycle racing in the world.

As arguably the best motorcycle racer in MotoAmerica, the US domestic championship, his performance will be weighed on a silver scale, and used as a yardstick for the standard of racing in the US. The hopes and dreams of many a young American racer may lie fallow if Beaubier falls short.

Is it fair that the weight of responsibility should fall so heavily on Beaubier’s shoulders? Absolutely not. Yet fair or not, that is what will happen.

The reasons for this lie in the historical strength of US racing, and the important role it has had in the history of both the MotoGP and World Superbike championships.

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Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

04/18/2016 @ 10:56 am, by David Emmett48 COMMENTS

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In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons; but if you did miss that announcement, then the news that Yamaha Motor Racing boss Lin Jarvis will be at Thursday’s pre-event press conference at Jerez should finally convince you.

It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed.

We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

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Some Thoughts on the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

04/05/2016 @ 9:51 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

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This story has no timely reason, other than I was working my way through Husqvarna’s media site for a different story, and noticed that there were finally some well-lit shots of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 concept available for download.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, as you may remember, builds off KTM’s Husqvarna’s 690cc platform, but uses the “Vitpilen” neo-café racer aesthetic. The result is what you see here, and it blew the doors off the EICMA show in Milan when it debuted late last year.

With these high-resolution photos, that thankfully were not taken in the dark this time, we can finally see the details of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, which were such a highlight when it debuted.

More importantly though, we can get a greater appreciation of where KISKA is taking Husqvarna, both in terms of separating the brand visually from its sister company KTM, but also on how the brand will sit apart from the rest of the motorcycle industry as a whole.

While I have no doubt that we will continue to see more conservative shapes and graphics on Husqvarna’s going forward, especially from Husqvarna’s dirt bike offerings, the Vitpilen segment is very intriguing as it brings a completely fresh take on a very tired-out market segment.

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What the Motorcycle Industry Can Learn from Video Games

03/28/2016 @ 2:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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For many, video games might just seem like a good way to waste an hour. But you should take note, as video games are roughly a $100 billion industry worldwide.

With that much money on the line, the gaming industry has had to evolve much more rapidly than our two-wheeled world, with video game companies not only looking for the latest trends and technologies, but also needing to be keenly more aware of their consumers’ traits and desires.

Because of this, the video game industry has made some interesting progress on understanding its users, and catering to their wants and needs.

One of these frameworks has always struck me as being highly salient to the motorcycle industry (among others), and since I finally bought my first gaming console a few weeks ago, the idea has come back to me as something we should talk about here on Asphalt & Rubber.

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Opinion: More Knee-Jerk Rule Changes Come to MotoGP in Response to the Sepang Clash

03/03/2016 @ 5:49 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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Farewell, MotoGP penalty point system, we barely knew you. In a press release issued today (and rather bizarrely, leaked to a Spanish journalist two days ago) the FIM announced that the Grand Prix Commission had decided to modify the penalty point system.

From now on, the only penalty to be imposed will happen once a rider accrues a total of ten points, at which point they will be disqualified for one race. The penalties for four (starting from the back of the grid) and seven points (starting from pit lane) have been dropped.

At a stroke, the penalty point system has been emasculated.

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The Unpopular Argument That the EPA is Right

02/17/2016 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler136 COMMENTS

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Last week, we published the story about how the EPA was laying claim to emissions regulation on production vehicles, even when they were being used privately for off-highway uses, such as racing.

This news sent a shockwave through the motorcycle and automotive communities, because this viewpoint from the EPA would drastically change not only the racing and track-enthusiasts landscape in America, but also the aftermarket sales of performance parts that are sold through the “race only” loophole.

As you can imagine, two-wheel and four-wheel enthusiasts were incensed over this revelation from the EPA, and I am sure a number of pitchforks were sharpened in the process.

So against my better judgment, I want to put forward to you an idea that I already know that many of you will disagree with out of hand: the unpopular argument that the EPA is right about all this.

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The Power Play That Is RevZilla & Cycle Gear Together

02/12/2016 @ 3:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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It is Friday, and I am still not sure why there is dearth of publications covering the movements between RevZilla and Cycle Gear. The largest brick-and-mortar motorcycle retail chain, and the most influential online retailer in our industry have just come together under one roof. Boom goes the dynamite.

Intonations of this deal have been in the news space for almost a week now, and by my last count, outside of our coverage here on Asphalt & Rubber, there has only been Motorcyclist’s rehashing of RevZilla’s press release, this 64-word story by PowerSports Business, and RevZilla’s self-published letter on the topic, by CEO Anthony Bucci.

If that doesn’t say something about the current state of moto-journalism, then I don’t know what does. It is a topic worthy of its own story, but that will have to wait for another day. Instead, I am here to talk to you about business, millennials, and future of consumerism.

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