Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Video: 200+ MPH with Paul Thede & Lightning Motorcycles

08/22/2011 @ 7:57 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Video: 200+ MPH with Paul Thede & Lightning Motorcycles Lightning Motorcycles Bonneville on board 635x477

Lightning Motorcycles had a busy week last week, as the San Francisco Bay Area company was hard at work at Bonneville setting the fastest speed ever on an electric vehicle, and then later shattering that record. Though the team wasn’t able to break past 220 mph as they had hoped, rider and multiple LSR holder Paul Thede is probably still happy with the fact that he spent the better part of the week going faster than he has ever gone on two-wheels before, let alone on an electric.

Becoming the newest inductee to the 200 MPH Club, Thede and his red hat made two more stabs at their 215.907 mph land speed record. Though they wouldn’t get past the mark, they did send us this video of their last run which showed 216 mph on the GPS at one point during the five mile pass. Be sure to note the perceivable lean angle capture by Lightning’s camera due to the Bonneville’s crosswinds. Would you be able to go 200+ mph cocked over 15º or more? Video after the jump.

Bonneville: Lightning Raises the Electric Motorcycle LSR Up Another Peg with a 215.907 mph Record

08/17/2011 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Bonneville: Lightning Raises the Electric Motorcycle LSR Up Another Peg with a 215.907 mph Record Lightning Motorcycles time slip 635x855

Lightning Motorcycles is still on the salt flats at Bonneville, looking for the ultimate in speed on an electric motorcycle. After already on Sunday setting the fastest speed recorded for any electric motorcycle, the Lightning crew set back to work on crushing its own 206.079 mph land speed record. Posting a 214.209 mph speed yesterday, Paul Thede had to once again back up the team’s accomplishment with another wicked fast run today, in order to get into the record books. Battling gusty cross-breezes, Thede put in an astonishing palindromic 217.712 mph time to set another LSR for Lightning, which officially comes in at 215.907 mph in the APS-Ω class.

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Sets a New Land Speed Record for Electric Motorcycles

08/15/2011 @ 7:46 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Sets a New Land Speed Record for Electric Motorcycles Paul Thede Lightning Motorcycles 635x474

News from the salt flats is that Lightning Motorcycles was successful in achieving a land speed record for electric motorcycles. Making a pass of 206.981 mph during Sunday’s sessions, the speed averaged from Saturday’s pass of 205.238 mph creates a land speed record of 206.079 mph for electric motorcycles (class APS-Ω). As a capper to the weekend, the Lightning team posted a top speed of 208.386 mph through the speed trap on its record run, showing that the “Flying Banana Mk. II” (as we like to call it) had a bit more pep left in it during its run.

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Becomes the First Electric Motorcycle to Break 200 MPH

08/13/2011 @ 4:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Bonneville: Lightning Motorcycles Becomes the First Electric Motorcycle to Break 200 MPH Lightning Motorcycles SCTA Bonneville 200 MPH 635x474

We just got a phone call from Richard Hatfield of Lightning Motorcycles saying that the “Flying Banana Mk. II” just put down a 205.238 mph pass at the Southern California Timing Associations’ Speed Week at Bonneville. This pass makes Lightning the first electric motorcycle manufacturer/competitor ever to break the 200 mph mark, whether it be on the tarmac or at the salt flats. If verified during tomorrow’s second pass, the speed would shatter the outright land speed record of 176.434mph, which was set by Riches Nelson and his fully-streamlined Airtech Lightning Bolt electric motorcycle.

Lightning currently holds the AMA and FIM land speed records for the APS-Ω LSR class (A=special chassis, PS=partially streamlined, Ω=electric) for electric motorcycles weighing between 150kg and 300kg, after Paul Thede (of Race-Tech fame) took the Flying Banana Mk. I to 173.321 mph at Bonneville last year. This year according to SCTA protocols, Lightning’s bike has been impounded for the night, and the team will have another run tomorrow to solidify its record. The average of those two speeds will then stand as Lightning’s official speed, and if everything goes according to plan, Lightning will have raised the LSR mark for electric motorcycles into the 200 mph bracket.