Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

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Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat

02/17/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

It seems Ducati is willing to put its label on just about anything these days, boats being no exception. And when this press release hit our inbox this morning phrases like “you’ve gotta be f*ing kidding me!” echoed off the walls of our still unfurnished office. But in all honesty when we opened the email and saw pictures of the red & white Cigarette Racing boat, we perhaps regretted our initial impression.

Straight out of a Miami Vice episode, the 42′ hull of the Cigarette Racing 42X Ducati Edition Racing Boat is pure white with red accents and Ducati logos. We’re not that into the ocean boat racing thing, but boy have they come a long way from what little of the 1980’s we remember. While we’d probably never own such an impractical machine (motorboats are cheating anyways), we certainly wouldn’t turn down a chance to romp around for a day in this 42X Ducati Edition speed machine, what with its dual 1,100hp Mercury Racing engines (that’s 2,200hp for the mathematically challenged).

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Ducati Corse Adds Diesel to Partnership List

01/10/2011 @ 8:41 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Ducati Corse is slowly becoming the Lord of the Rings in MotoGP — bringing together some of the largest brands outside of the industry into the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. Already announcing Mercedes Benz’s tuning house AMG as its official car sponsor to the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati announced ahead of today’s start to the Wrooom event that apparel company Diesel would be added to the team’s rostrum of sponsors.

The maker of tight skinny jeans and other fashionable items, Diesel will be adding its “Made in Italy” brand to Ducati’s Italian bikes, and will also supply the Ducati Corse team with apparel for the 2011 season, which we can also only imagine will be made available to the public as well with a modest mark up on the not so modest base prices. Still say what you will about Italians and their fashion, one thing remains impressively true: Ducati is crushing it right now when it comes to finding dollars to go race in MotoGP.

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AMG Sponsoring Ducati MotoGP Team

11/17/2010 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Announced last night at the L.A. Auto Show, Ducati and AMG (Mercedes-Benz’s tuning house) have formed a partnership between the two brands the will first manifest itself by having the German car tuner sponsoring the Italian company’s MotoGP team. Rumored for over a month now, this announcement finally puts to bed the speculation that Fiat would sponsor Ducati now that Valentino Rossi has joined the Rosso Corse team, and is also the first official sponsorship announcement for Ducati Corse’s 2011 season.

With Rossi healing his wounds back in Italy, Nicky Hayden was on hand for the event with a Ducati Diavel and Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG on stage with him. Asked what he thought about the partnership, Hayden replied, “Well, if this is my company bike and this is my company car, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.” We’d tend to agree.

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The World is Not Enough – Bajaj Wants to Create a Three-Way Alliance with KTM & Kawasaki

09/24/2010 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

According to Indian publication Bike Advice, Bajaj is looking to cultivate its relationships with KTM & Kawasaki further, hoping to create a three-way alliance that would build off the strengths of each company. Since 1986 Bajaj has had technical ties to Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki, with Bajaj paying royalties to Kawasaki for basing its creations off Kawasaki designs. Bajaj and Kawasaki also share distribution channels, with Bajaj motorcycles being sold at Kawasaki dealerships, and vice versa.

In 2007 the Indian manufacturer bought a 17% stake in KTM (Bajaj has since increased its stake in the Austrian company to 35% in 2008, with further investment plans rumored), which allowed Bajaj access to Europe and KTM access to India. Bajaj has also gained some of KTM’s knowledge on two-stroke motors, while KTM has seen the small-bike specialist help them with its soon-to-be released KTM 125 Duke project.

With all these relationships being fostered, and obvious synergies existing, Bajaj wants to take its relationship with each company to the next level (in America we call that Third Base), and change the level of collaboration so it goes three-ways. The affect would be a merger, without the merger.

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Brammo Taps Flextronics for Global Production and Assembly Strategic Partnership

09/15/2010 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It’s hard to make strategic business partnership announcements sound sexy. Between all the hyperbole about how two companies are going to shift the industry paradigm and synergize the supply chain matrix, the average consumer’s eyes glaze over, and drool starts seeping out from the corners of their mouths. So bear with us on this one, because the announcement (or is the term Brammouncement?) of Brammo and Flextronics is an important one not only for the Ashland based company, but also for the electric motorcycle industry as a whole.

Some of the biggest problems facing any startup in the motorcycle industry are distribution and assembly. With the demand for electric motorcycles being a global issue, electric motorcycle startups, which are based primarily in the United States, have to not only grow their businesses domestically, but perhaps more importantly they need to foster a presence abroad in foreign markets.

With Europe and Asia easily out-pacing the demand in the US for electric transportation, an issue of contention for cash-strapped startups like Brammo has been how to grow globally and effectively with their limited budgets. The solution in this case for Brammo, is partnering with Flextronics, and using their scalable global production facilities.

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US Highland Deal Could Lead To 20,000 Units/Year By 2012

05/06/2010 @ 12:53 pm, by John Adamo7 COMMENTS

Oklahoma powersports startup US Highland recently announced they have one or two deals in the works. First they have a “tentative agreement” with a “global OEM” to license their motor technology. They are also discussing a deal to build bikes for a company to rebrand. It is unclear if the “global OEM” interested in their engines is the same one looking to rebrand the Highland machines.

However, both deals could bring US Highland from it’s original plan of building 700 motorcycles in 2010 and 1500 motorcycles next year to 20,000 units per year by 2012. To accommodate this growth US Highland will hire 200 to 300 people at their Oklahoma headquarters by the end of 2010. Hear more about US Highland and see the full press release after the break.

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Triumph and Öhlins Announce Partnership

11/11/2009 @ 6:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

2010-Speed-Triple-Ohlins-EICMA

Triumph has announced that it has formed a partnership with the Swedish Suspension house, Öhlins. The partnership will mean that Öhlins will provide compenants for a variety of bikes in Triumph’s “urban sports” range, namely the Daytona 675, Street Triple, Street Triple R, Speed Triple, and Tiger motorcycles.

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Petronas Sponsorship Worth $24 Million to Fiat Yamaha

04/20/2009 @ 12:04 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Petronas Sponsorship Worth $24 Million to Fiat Yamaha

pensive-valentino-rossi

You may remember that Petronas inked a three year deal with Fiat Yamaha, sponsoring the Rossi/Lorenzo duo in MotoGP. While Petronas has worked with Yamaha for eight years in a variety of fields, this marks their first collaboration with them in MotoGP, and it is costing them a pretty penny: $24 million for three years, or $8 million a year. For this sum, Petronas branding will appear on the Fiat Yamaha team’s bikes, equipment, and uniforms. Looking closer at the deal we see how large of a deal this is when compared to other similar sponsorships in MotoGP, while also at the same time, how the actual sum paid might be much less than $24 million.

 

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Petronas to Sponsor Fiat Yamaha

04/11/2009 @ 4:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

monster-fiat-yamaha-petronas-sponsorhip

The Fiat Yamaha Team has signed a three-year agreement with Petronas, the Malaysian national oil and gas corporation, who will become a new official sponsor to the MotoGP team. Under the new partnership, the Fiat Yamaha Team will carry the Petronas logo on both Rossi’s and Lorenzo’s bike’s as well as the team equipment and material.

 

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