2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Leaked ahead of EICMA

Someone at Yamaha is going to get a stern talking to today, as it seems a photo of the still unreleased Yamaha FJ-09 made its way to Yamaha’s press site accidentally, and didn’t yank it down before our friends at Common Tread caught a glimpse of it. Mixed in with photos of the Yamaha FZ-09, the photo of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 doesn’t really give too much away from the machine, as we’ve seen the same shot in black & white already. However, since it’s the new bike season, and Yamaha has already shown the YZF-R3 and teased the all-new YZF-R1, we thought it would be appropriate to show you this new model in all its glory. Based off the FZ-09 platform, the FJ-09 will be Yamaha’s budget-minded sport/ADV-touring machine, picking up were the old Yamaha TDM left off.

Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT). Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

Yamaha YZF-R3 Revealed – 321cc Twin Coming to the USA

The rumors were true, Yamaha is bringing a special small-displacement model to market, the Yamaha YZF-R3. As the name indicates, the new R3 gets a fuel-injected displacement bump over the R25, to the tune of 321cc. Debuted at the AIMExpo today, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is coming to the USA, with a price tag of $4,990. Said by Yamaha to have “class-leading power”, the new R3 finally adds a small-displacement sport bike to Yamaha’s North American lineup, and makes an attractive offering when compared to the other 250cc/300cc machines from the other Japanese manufacturers. Expect to see it in Yamaha dealers, starting January 2014. Yamaha North America expects the YZF-R3 to be the volume leader for the company in the USA and Canada, and rightfully so.

Ducati Announces DVT — Desmodromic Variable Timing

As was teased, Ducati is unveiling its “DVT” technology today, which stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing, and to showcase that technology (borrowed from Volkswagen), Ducati has produced the first motorcycle engine with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. Adapted to the now-called Ducati Testastretta DVT engine, which we reported will debut first on the new Ducati Multistrada for 2015, Ducati’s new v-twin powerplant can change the intake and exhaust timing independently, and throughout the rev range. This means that the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine can be optimized for peak power at high rpms, while maintaing rideability and smoothness at lower rpms — not to mention keeping with emission and noise regulations throughout the rev range.

What If You Put Dustbin Fairings on Modern Sport Bikes?

I simply love the latest sketches from Nicolas Petit. The French designer is sort of re-imaging a previous project of his, where he designed a modern-looking dustbin-style fairing for a BMW HP2 Sport and Moto Guzzi V12 Le Mans. Taking on now the Ducati 1199 Panigale, Petit has mixed the old-styled TT racer look with Italy’s premier superbike, in an effective manner. We haven’t seen this sort of clash between old and new technology since John Hopkins raced the last two-stroke GP bike, the Yamaha YZR500 in 2002. There are some obvious issues with dustbin fairings. While they cut the air ahead of the motorcycle, the first step to achieving better aerodynamics, they do little to shape the air behind the motorcycle, the second step to achieving better aerodynamics.

Is This How Much the Kawasaki Ninja H2R Will Cost? Nope.

It has certainly been interesting to see the buzz around the Kawasaki Ninja H2 these past few weeks, especially as everyone tries to cash in on the supercharged hype-machine that Kawasaki has been running. Now lately we have seen a supposed dealer invoice for the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R, with a price tag just north of $60,000. Many publications have latched onto that price point — which isn’t the craziest conclusion to come to, considering that the H2R is Kawasaki’s halo-bike project, and will likely cost a pretty penny — though with just a quick glance, we can see that the alleged paperwork has clearly been a work of Photoshop, and not inside information.

Ducati Reaches New Workforce Agreement with Factory Unions – Reduced Hours, Higher Wages

Ducati Motor Holding has reached a new agreement with its workforce, particularly those workers who are responsible for building the Italian company’s iconic two-wheeled machines. The agreement with the unions sees 13 new jobs created in the Italian factory, which will now stay open on seven days a week — a big move for a country that is usually resistant to working on Sunday. The factory workers will also go from 15 to 21 shifts per week, with a format of three days on, and two days off. In exchange, factory employees will work fewer hours per week on average, though will make higher average wages for their time.

New Ducati 1299 Gets +100cc, While 1299R Gets None

For 2014, Ducati is giving the Panigale a bit of a model update, and thanks to an ill-framed photo from the Ducati North America dealers’ meeting, we know that the new superbike will be called by the 1299 designation. The upgrade in number caused some confusion though, as Ducati has a mixed history of matching designation numbers to actual displacement sizes. Hoping to clear up the confusion and speculation, we received some details from our Bothan spy network. As expected, Ducati will not be bumping up the 1299R up to 1,300cc of displacement, as the World Superbike rules are for 1,200cc twin-cylinder engines, and are not going to be changed anytime soon.

MotoAmerica’s Provisional 2015 Racing Calendar Released

There is positive momentum around America’s new MotoAmerica series, which will takeover duties from DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing, starting next season. We have already seen the series’ new class structure, which makes significant steps to parallel what’s going on in the World Superbike Championship. Today, we see MotoAmerica’s efforts on its racing schedule, a hot-ticket item after DMG’s five, then six, race schedule this season. American fans should rejoice, as eight races are on the calendar, which reads like a greatest hits album of American race tracks.

Triumph Tiger 800 Gets Four More Variants

Triumph seems set to debut four more variants of its Tiger 800, as CARB filings filings show a Tiger 800 XCA, Tiger 800 XCX, Tiger 800 XRT, and Tiger 800 XRX models for the 2015 model year. The news seems to show Triumph spreading out its middleweight ADV offering, giving on-road and off-road riders a bit more to choose from the British brand. Helping us understand how Triumph sees the four added variants, Motorcycle.com has publish a chart (above), which Triumph sent to Tiger 800 owners as a part of its market research. That chart breaks down the various models’ spec, and which features that would come with as standard. Noticeable across the board is that the three-cylinder gets a 15% MPG boost, as well as ABS and traction control as standard features.

This Isn’t a Motorcycle Commercial, But It Should Be

02/08/2012 @ 11:41 am, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

This Isnt a Motorcycle Commercial, But It Should Be joy ride nikon film 635x449

For the uninitiated readers of Asphalt & Rubber, I have an axe to grind with the way OEMs market our sport, lifestyle, and culture. For an industry that centers so heavily around the idea of personal freedoms and individuality, the way motorcycle brands engage motorcyclists is appalling.

Often creating cheap one-dimensional campaigns that feed into the most base stereotypes available, it is rare to find any sort of marketing campaign that touches on the nerves of why we ride motorcycles. We’ve seen the car. We know it exists. And yet, we choose to ride motorcycles. Think about it.

If what is after the jump costs 10x what a normal cheap YouTube flick from (insert OEM here), then I’ll take 10x less marketing material from any motorcycle manufacturer if what I do end up seeing looks this good, and actually has this much substance. Like the Escapism short we debuted by friend Barry Munsterteiger, this film Joy Ride by Sandro has the same level of quality and storytelling we need to publish in the industry.

For bonus points, it shows that motorcyclists are real people with depth and character; and for ultra-bonus points, the star of the film is some guy named Mark Miller.The only thing that I hate about this video? It was made to promote a new digital SLR camera, not a motorcycle. Wake up people.

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.

Lawless Jakarta & Some Thoughts About Southeast Asia

01/10/2012 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler41 COMMENTS

Here’s a random factoid delivered in the form of a question for you: when looking at the metrics for the A&R website, A&R Twitter account, and A&R Facebook page, which city do you think is responsible for the most readers? We are an American-based website after all, so your top picks might be New York, Los Angeles, or maybe San Francisco, right? Nope. Half our traffic does come from abroad though, so maybe London? Paris? Rome? Barcelona? Wrong again dear readers, because when it comes to a single city consuming the moto-goodness that we publish on a daily basis, none of them have anything on Jakarta, Indonesia (yes, the title of article gave that one away, huh?).

I recently talked about this phenomenon with another online motojournalist, who was experiencing the same trend, and he concluded that it must be employees using proxy servers so they can read blog while at work. I disagreed however, and when looking at where the industry as a whole is currently headed, I think there is something much more basic at play here. Developing countries are the future of motorcycling, and right now Southeast Asia is a hot bed of growth for motorcycle sales. With a less developed infrastructure, and still a need to get from Point A to Point B, motorcycles provide a cheap and effective means of transportation in countries like Indonesia, and for many, motorcycles have become a way of life.

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.

Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli

10/30/2011 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Some Closing Thoughts About Marco Simoncelli Marco Simoncelli MotoGP Scott Jones 5

It has taken me a week to collect my thoughts and process the passing of Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider that lost his life during the MotoGP race in Malaysia. I’m not one of those journalists that can belt out some poignant thoughts on an event immediately after it happens, nor did I personally know Simoncelli well enough to offer a comprehensive anecdote on the man’s short but distinguished life. Having only met and talked to Marco briefly a few times, I cannot shed some deeper insight regarding who he was as a man, stripped away of all the pomp, prestige, and PR spin of the premier class.

I’ve heard the MotoGP paddock described as a family or village, so as one of its most recent members, this tragedy both cuts me deeply, but yet also seems like a distant and surreal event. Perhaps it will affect me more as I travel to Valencia this week, or perhaps I will continue to feel as if I am on the outside looking in at cataclysm of grief that has befallen friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Time will tell in that regard, and I’ll leave it to those masters of the pen who are better suited to the task to account for the young Italian’s life and racing career.

Instead my closing thoughts about Marco Simoncelli are a mixed commentary of life, tragedy, and where we go from here.

MotoGP Owners Looking to Buy World Superbike

06/13/2011 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

MotoGP Owners Looking to Buy World Superbike carlos checa water pit lane 635x449

Bear with us on this one, as it’s a bit convoluted. Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm based out of London, owns Spanish company Dorna Sports SL. Dorna, which as you might recall is the media rights holder and promoter for MotoGP, the motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship that we all know and love. Meanwhile World Superbike is owned in majority by Swiss company Infront Sports & Media, and in minority by the Italian-born Flammini brothers, with the latter group still handling WSBK’s media promotion.

Now according to reports, Infront Sports & Media is up for sale, and one of the three alleged bidders is Bridgepoint Capital (circle back to the second sentence in the first paragraph if you got lost on the way here). This means that potentially the twice-removed owner of MotoGP could potentially own a controlling stake in the Championship’s rival series: World Superbike. There are still a number of “if’s” in whether Bridgepoint will come through as a buyer on Infront Sports & Media, but ownership of both series by the same party, even at a removed distance is worth some general discussion.

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.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over the great experiment 635x423

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law...Again  bug splat

Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

Do Something Good for Japan, & Yourself. Buy Honda Stock

03/16/2011 @ 5:45 pm, by Mark Gardiner4 COMMENTS

Do Something Good for Japan, & Yourself. Buy Honda Stock Nikkei stock price drop 635x476

As we sit halfway around the world, essentially powerless to change the events unfolding in Japan, there still comes the feeling that we should be doing something, anything, to aid the people affected by the recent 9.0 earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and unfolding nuclear disaster.

Rising to a call of action, Moto for Japan is an effort by a group of motorcyclists that donates money to the American Red Cross via an inspired charitable platform developed by none other than Hollywood’s Edward Norton. The effort has been making the rounds on the internet the past two days, and its creators, Greg Hatton and Jon Bekefy, should be praised for their thoughtful thinking.

Perhaps a different take on how to best bring aid to Japan, I got an interesting message from Mark Gardiner, who pointed out “Japan is not Haiti. By the time we can actually deliver bottled water and blankets to the scene, people will have walked to parts of Japan that are relatively unscathed. If you want to help Japan, buy Honda stock.” I think ‘The Backmarker’ is grasping a key point here, and with permission, we’ve reproduced his article on the subject as a guest post after the jump. – Jensen