Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains. This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

Photo of the Week: A Championship Down to the Wire

11/07/2011 @ 6:01 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Few championships are won without at least a bit of good fortune, and with at least his fair share of that maxim, Stefan Bradl is the new Moto2 World Champion. After reversing Bradl’s fantastic beginning of the 2011 season, Marc Marquez had the momentum and the points lead, until his run inevitable collision with Ratthapark Wilairot at the Australian GP. The mistake cost Marquez, and forced the Spaniard to start from the back of the grid, which in turn lead to a third place behind Bradl’s second at Phillip Island.

With another crash leaving Marquez unfit to compete in the final two races, Bradl clinched the title at Valencia when Marquez did not participate in Saturday’s Qualifying session. The Sepang crash robbed Marquez of his opportunity to fight for the title, and robbed the fans of seeing the competitive Moto2 class come down to an on-track battle. In spite of the story behind the last two races, Bradl is a worthy champion for hanging in there and fighting back as Marquez attacked, even if he may not have been the best rider at the end of the season. His strong results early in 2011 made the difference at the end, and congratulations are in order to the new Moto2 Champion.

Photo of the Week: You Gave Everything

10/31/2011 @ 12:15 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

At the inaugural GP of India for Formula One, a moment of silence was observed for Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon, and while I wondered how many among the F1 audience had ever heard of Marco, it was a fine gesture and certainly appreciated by the MotoGP community.

This week has been largely about trying to move on after the accident at Sepang, but that has proved very difficult to do for me and my colleagues, friends, and as yet unmet fellow MotoGP fans. I continue to receive requests for Simoncelli photos from increasingly obscure connections, in addition to those from close friends who want something with which to remember Marco.

I ran across this image from Catalunya, which helps put the loss in a proper context. The translation, provided at the time by a linguistically gifted friend on the Dorna staff, was something like: You gave everything because you loved. Certainly a 58 will appear beside the numbers of Shoya Tomizawa and Daijiro Kato if this fellow redoes his banner next season. And in all three cases, we are left to wonder what excitements and triumphs we might have witnessed had fate allowed 74, 48, & 58 to contest more Grand Prix races.

Photo of the Week: SuperSic Forever

10/24/2011 @ 12:50 pm, by Scott Jones31 COMMENTS

As a 250cc rider, Marco Simoncelli struck me as being very talented, but also a grave danger to his fellow riders. In the 250GP races in which Simoncelli participated, he was always the wild card, and one never knew what he might do in his spirited attempts to win. As the list of other riders who’d narrowly escaped serious injury in on-track incidents with Marco grew, I developed a profound dislike for how he behaved on track, and I thought that this behavior indicated what type of person he was.

But as I gained access to the MotoGP paddock, and found opportunities to glimpse the riders’ personalities, Marco Simoncelli was one of the first for whom I recognized that I could not draw such conclusions based solely on what I saw on TV.

On a motorcycle, Simoncelli was ferocious, as the cat on the back of his helmet indicated. In person he was soft spoken, gentle, quick to smile and generous. Always a gracious participant with Riders for Health fundraising events, he courageously faced crowds who spoke no Italian and charmed them in his accented and limited English. He signed whatever people asked of him, and posed for photos with patience and grace.

Photo of the Week: Hail to the King

10/17/2011 @ 6:11 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

It seems to have been inevitable now, and what other words could there be to say? Casey Stoner has been head & shoulders above the rest of the MotoGP class, a trait that is not too dissimilar from how Jorge Lorenzo, his rival all season long, won the Championship in 2010. The bike to beat this season, being on the Repsol Honda certainly didn’t hurt Stoner’s chances, but he did more on his factory Honda RC212V than the three other very talented riders who had similar equipment. Congratulations to Casey and his HRC team for a well-deserved 2011 World Championship title.

Photo of the Week: Home Grown

10/10/2011 @ 11:15 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

Here’s to the privateer, who travels to the race without sponsorship from tobacco or energy drinks, who sleeps in the truck that carried the bike, who wakes up smelling of solvent and spilled gas, and who wonders how many more laps he can get from his current set of tires. If the love of racing sometimes gets lost among big budgets, umbrella girls, and TV rights, it is alive and well in the hearts of those who bring whatever they can afford to the track, and race it as fast as they can. Here’s to Linda and her checkbook.

Photo of the Week: Olé!

10/03/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Congratulations to Carlos Checa, who is finally a World Champion, having clinched the World Superbike title at Magny Cours with three races to go. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Photo of the Week: Mastermind

09/26/2011 @ 12:12 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

In August, I sat across the aisle from Livio Suppo on a connecting flight to Indianapolis, and found the HRC Communications & Marketing Director weary at the end of his journey from Italy. Though cordial as ever, he was not in the mood to chat as he yawned, stretched and endured the last leg of a transcontinental flight.

So I kept to myself, and thought back to when Casey Stoner joined Ducati in 2007, the year he’d go on to win the world title on the new 800cc formula. As Ducati’s MotoGP Project Leader, Suppo was often asked what Ducati had done to make the GP7 so dominant? What had they gotten so right that Stoner was running away with the title?

Again and again Suppo told the media that it was really Casey who was performing the miracles, not the bike. Again and again that statement was dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from whatever secret mojo Ducati had come up with. And once again in 2011, hindsight has shed an interesting light on Ducati’s past. It turns out Suppo was right when he said it was Casey, not the bike.

Photo of the Week: Unmet Expectations

09/19/2011 @ 12:22 pm, by Scott Jones14 COMMENTS

At the MotoGP test in Qatar, the week before the 2011 season opener, all eyes were on Rossi and the GP11. Naively we wondered if he would be able to recreate his magic at Welkom in 2004, and comparisons to Rossi’s move to Yamaha were inevitable. Some in the paddock thought he was in better shape going to Ducati than he had been when he left Honda, after all Casey Stoner had managed to win several times at the end of 2010 on the bike Rossi was taking over, while the pre-Rossi Yamaha was widely considered a mess on two wheels. Burgess’ remarks that he and Rossi would sort the Ducati straight away gave us the impression that the dream team could see what was wrong, and knew at least in theory what to do when they took over Stoner’s ride.

In spite of the problems that had been apparent since the first GP11 test in Valencia the previous November, our faith in the Rossi, Burgess, & Co.’s expertise still had many of us prepared for a strong finish at Losail — expecting Rossi to do at least as well on the GP11 as Stoner had managed on the GP10. “He’ll at least win a few races once he gets the Ducati sorted,” was a common attitude in Qatar.

Photo of the Week: Unsung Hero

09/12/2011 @ 2:45 pm, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.

After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.

Photo of the Week: Do or Die

09/05/2011 @ 1:44 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off

Some say that defending a World Championship is harder than winning it in the first place. Though much of the MotoGP world may already have assigned the 2011 title to Casey Stoner, reigning champ Jorge Lorenzo is not going down without a fight. After starting the year respectfully deferring to the doomsday combination of Stoner on a factory Honda, and downplaying his chances of successfully defending his title, Lorenzo has quietly notched up eight podium finishes, including three wins, with only a single retirement. His sixth place at Assen he owes to nemesis Marco Simoncelli, but Lorenzo still managed to remount and score valuable points.

With all the attention on HRC’s final bid to win an 800cc title, after being the main proponent in the switch from 990s, Lorenzo’s moments in the spotlight have often focused on his new role: that of man without a prayer. But at Misano (spoiler alert!) he showed a lot of heart, grabbing the win and asserting his position as the one Stoner still has to beat. With help from Dani Pedrosa, who passed Stoner to take second place, Lorenzo now trails by 35 points, with five races to go, and has perhaps more momentum than he’s enjoyed all season.

Of course with the Aragon GP up next, Lorenzo will have to try and forget last year, when Nicky Hayden passed him to take a rare podium, and the race was won by, who else, Casey Stoner. If Stoner could beat the field by 5 seconds on a Ducati, he should be even tougher to beat on the Honda, and Lorenzo will have to dig deep to keep his defense hopes alive.