Moto2: Brough Superior Race Bike Will Debut at Silverstone

Despite some early promise, there has been much complaining of a lack of innovation from chassis builders in Moto2. the bikes have followed the same basic layout as all modern race bikes since the late 1980s: aluminium twin spar chassis and conventional suspension arrangements. The only real interest has come from wildcards. At Le Mans, the French Promoto Sport team raced their Transfiormer chassis, with some solid results. Beyond that, the bikes have been pretty much identikit. At Silverstone this year though, another interesting wildcard will get its first public running. The British round of Moto2 will see the Brough Superior make its debut in a competitive race, after making an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year.

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.

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

Ducati’s Deal with the Devil: A Business Case for the Diavel

03/07/2011 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

Ducatis Deal with the Devil: A Business Case for the Diavel Ducati Diavel key 635x424

If you had told me a few years ago that Ducati would build a cruiser-segment motorcycle, I probably would have called you a couple cylinders short of a v-twin. Up until recently, mentioning the thought of the Bologna brand chasing after Harley-Davidson riders would have invited fisticuffs in most Italian motorcycle cafés. And even despite the launch of the Ducati Diavel, you can start a heated debate among loyal Ducatisti by bringing up Italy’s latest power cruiser.

Make no mistake, the 2011 Ducati Diavel is a controversial motorcycle…and that’s putting things lightly (at worst it’s a complete dilution of the Ducati brand). If the Diavel is Ducati’s deal with the Devil, then let me play the Devil’s advocate for a moment, and put forth the business case about why this motorcycle had to be built, and what it means to the Ducati brand — minus the pandering to the Ducati faithful.

Are Electronics the New Horsepower?

03/01/2011 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Are Electronics the New Horsepower? 2011 aprilia rsv4 r aprc black 635x423

The news of the 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC got me thinking today about where the sport bike market is headed from a big picture perspective. The sport bike market has been dominated the constant need to develop motorcycles with more power, less weight, and new performance enhancing technologies, and you’d be hard pressed to find a year where the bike with the most horsepower wasn’t the top-seller in this category (case in point: the complete sales domination of the BMW S1000RR during 2010).

For years the motorcycle manufacturers, especially the Japanese, have been painting themselves into a corner by constantly having to one-up each other with horsepower figures in order to sell motorcycles in this segment. With bikes like the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R approaching the 200hp barrier, the question about “how much power is enough?” has been cropping up, and it certainly could be that we’re approaching the point in time where the relevancy of this metric is losing it’s power (pun moderately intended). So what will be the new kingmaker for sport bikes? The electronics package.

LCR Honda: This is How You Launch a MotoGP Team

02/01/2011 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

LCR Honda: This is How You Launch a MotoGP Team LCR Honda Playboy bunny Antonio Esposito 2 635x423

Testing has already gotten underway and concluded at Sepang today, meaning the teams of MotoGP have released their livery for the next season with varying degrees of fanfare and showmanship. It’s no surprise then that we found a couple photos of the LCR Honda RC212V adorned with a seductive Playboy bunny affixed to it, in what surely has to be the best GP team launch in 2011.

If you read Asphalt & Rubber on a religious basis (we are your motorcycling zen temple, right?), you’ve likely divined by now that I’ll chastise just about any company that uses the premise that “sex sells” (nothing boils my blood more than this cleverly short, yet misguided maxim), and that I love a good scrappy startup that’s got more hustle than funding (case in point: A&R is a penniless motorcycle startup trying to make it in this crazy online world).

So how does a the multi-million dollar motorcycle racing team with half-naked women draped all over their machinery get such accolades from our humble motorcycle blog? Because LCR Honda is the epitome of innovation on the business side of MotoGP racing.