US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated. Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015. Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations). We will have to wait for all the motorcycle OEMs to report their final quarter sales results to know who are the big winners and losers of the 2016 sales year. Though, we do know that KTM and BMW (up 5.9%) have shown signs of strong results internationally, whereas Duacti and Harley-Davidson are expected to post overall sales declines for 2016.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R. BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go. With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market. Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia. According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles. “We are very excited to build a successful relationship with Urban Moto Group as a new partner also overseeing and developing the presence of MV Agusta in the USA market,” said Giovanni Castiglioni.

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction. Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels. As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS). All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand. Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence. Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand. Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

Triumph Set to Become the Official Moto2 Engine Supplier

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017. There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

This Dakar Rally inspired Ducati Hypermotard is the latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, and it comes with some very appropriate timing. Not only are we full-swing into the 2017 Dakar Rally, but this 1980s-styled Ducati comes during a week where we have been talking about my not-so-secret love affair with the Ducati Hypermotard. Again, we see the air-cooled version of this street-going supermoto being used as a platform for a unique work, though this time Walt Siegl has been commissioned to make a bike that rolled right off the sand dunes of Africa. The exercise centers around mostly the restyling of the bodywork, to give us a little nostalgia for when the Dakar Rally was actually held in its namesake in Northern Africa.

Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings. But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion. When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well. So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle – how’s that for alliteration?

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight. If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes. The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again. The single biggest change is to simplify the structure of the championship with the GNC1 class now just for twin-cylinder engined bikes, with the GNC2 class using the smaller singles.

Photo of the Week: Forging Ahead

08/30/2011 @ 4:33 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

While conditions vary from race weekend to race weekend, it is rare that GP riders find themselves with a brand new track surface to deal with when they arrive at a venue. Looking to placate the complaints about the bumpy infield that have been heard at Indy during previous rounds, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway completely resurfaced the interior section of the course, which is used only once a year when the MotoGP circus comes to Indiana.

This meant that Friday practice was held on a track free of any rubber from past sessions, causing all the GP riders to complain loudly about the slippery and dangerous conditions of the ‘green’ surface. Not only was there no old rubber to add grip to the MotoGP machines, but the aggregate used in the resurfacing was still sharp at the surface, which meant tires were shredded in record time by the abrasive macadam, leaving an amazing amount of slag at some corners.

As more sessions were completed, grip improved enough that Casey Stoner was able to set a new track record, and the racing line was defined clearly enough by the dark bits of line running between the fields of rubber marbles. The abrasive nature of the new surface still caused many problems during the race as several riders retired due to front end tire issues. Local hero Nicky Hayden gambled on a softer front tire, and found that while able he was able to chase down and pass the factory Hondas for the first time this season, the softer front tire’s rapid deterioration caused him to come into the pits to assess its condition, much to the dismay of fans attending the Indianapolis GP.

Photo of the Week: Old Grudges Die Hard

08/22/2011 @ 12:42 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

Two seasons after Dani Pedrosa knocked Nicky Hayden off the track at Estoril and seemingly derailed his teammate’s championship bid, emotions about the move still ran hot at The Kentucky Kid’s home race. There’s no telling for whom the pair in this photo might have shirts made next weekend, but the odds are on Filippo Preziosi.

Considering that these guys look like they’ve eaten meals that weighed more than Pedrosa, they seem unlikely to care that the father of the career-wrecking Ducati GP concept is in a wheelchair, but certainly the majority of Indy’s great fans will keep it classy. Best of luck to Nicky and Dani and all of those who compete at the highest level of motorcycle racing.

Photo of the Week: Brush Your Shoulders Off

08/15/2011 @ 2:06 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

On the grid at Mugello I watched as seven or eight visiting Japanese gentlemen in matching white Honda shirts smiled, bowed, and shook hands with Simoncelli, and I couldn’t help wondering if they were congratulating him in advance for having knocked out his latest fellow Honda rider. Rumors had been flying around the paddock about the discussions HRC had held with Sic concerning his inability to tame his raw speed, and add the crucial element of sound judgment while in the heat of battle.

While his pace this season was plain to see, the question continued to fascinate us: would Marco ever find a way to be fast and smart? He came in sixth that day, and looked nothing like the Super Sic we’d come to know and fear, in spite of having qualified third. In Germany he was sixth again, and at Laguna Seca he crashed out for the fifth time this season.

At Brno he seemed to have completed a metamorphosis from wild and dangerous to calm and calculating (possible spoiler alert ahead). After a poor start he worked his way through the field until finding himself behind two riders with whom he has a complex past: Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Watching the laps tick off with Sic in fourth place, hungry for that first podium but dangerously close to Lorenzo, one couldn’t help but have the feeling of watching a train wreck about to happen. Given all that has occurred with Lorenzo, the sparring in press conferences, the latest rider elimination of JL at Assen, would Sic rush in again and further complicate his history with the reigning world champ?

Photo of the Week: Paddock Etiquette

08/08/2011 @ 9:29 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Where do the MotoGP riders hang out when they aren’t on track, in the box, or in the team hospitality? Probably in their motor homes if the race is a European round. Most of the riders seem to own or lease their own vehicles, though some seem to rent per event. Like the hospitalities and other paddock amenities, RVs do not join the air freight for fly-away races. But for the rounds to which they can travel over land, they park together in a section of the paddock where the riders can escape the media and fans.

As I walked from the P1 parking area toward the media center I passed the paddock of riders’ RVs and saw this sign. I chose not to ask Cal about this as I did not want to get slammed for asking about a touchy subject, but I like the photo because it shows a seldom-seen side of the GP scene.

We tend to think of MotoGP riders as pampered, top-level athletes with entourages and handlers and so on. But it’s not impossible for one to be sitting in his RV, slowly going mad because people keep coming in and slamming the door. Neither is it impossible for someone to point out a misspelling in his warning, which is a nice reminder that in spite of their ungodly abilities on two wheels, they are still people, at least in some ways, just like the rest of us.

Photo of the Week: The Long Goodbye

08/01/2011 @ 2:07 pm, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

It looks like 2011 will be Loris Capirossi’s final Grand Prix season, and the end of a remarkable career that has sadly fizzled in the past few years. Capirex’s last win was in 2007, his final season as a factory Ducati rider, and since switching to the Rizla Suzuki team in 2008 he has not had the equipment to show the kind of form that previously garnered both 125cc and 250cc world titles.

This season’s return to a Ducati seat with Pramac has not improved his competitiveness, and crashes have continued to add up to more aches and pains. Approaching 40, Capirossi carries many scars into each session, including hands so frail that he wears specially designed and heavily padded gloves to protect them from further impact.

In person he is friendly and polite, quick to return a smile, though lately he has seemed weary of the challenge of climbing on yet another uncompetitive bike and going out to fight for 10th place. He will always have a place in Ducati history, haven taken the team’s first win at Barcelona in 2003, and in GP history for his world titles.

It would be great to see him manage one more good result this year, but given the difficulties of the GP11, it seems more likely that he will have to be content ending his long GP career in one piece. Considering how many talented riders have come to the premier class for a season or two before disappearing for other grids, Capirossi’s decades-long GP career is quite an accomplishment.

Photo of the Week: Winless

07/26/2011 @ 11:44 am, by Scott Jones10 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi is the most photographed rider in the MotoGP paddock (and probably the most photographed motorcycle racer in the world), someone who almost always has a crowd of cameras around him. He has the most traffic when trying to ride from the box onto pit lane, the thickest crowd around him on the grid, and when he’s out on track he generates more images than any other rider. All the photographers, regardless of which clients they have and which teams they work with, photograph Rossi.

So it has become quite a challenge to create images of him that many people have not seen many times already. Photographers still do the ‘classic’ Rossi shot of putting a wide angle on the ground, pointed upward as Rossi does his foot peg ceremony before climbing aboard. We still see Rossi superstitiously picking at his butt as he exits pit lane, and so on. Because of his elaborate routine of following the same behaviors over and over, we tend to get the same images of him over and over.

At each race I try to get an image of him that I’ve not seen before. Portraits are usually the best bet, because even though he follows the same routine in the box of chest protector in, ear plugs licked then inserted and held in place with a pistol grip, helmet on with fists to the forehead, and so on, he is still a human being and his expressions are occasionally unguarded and revealing. When you catch one of those, you probably have an interesting portrait of a very interesting subject.

Photo of the Week: Iron Man

07/18/2011 @ 9:53 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Two operations on the same collarbone in two months, that collarbone being the second one broken this season, and a win in his second race back in action. Remarkable. Though tragically fragile for a motorbike racer, Dani is as tough as old boots and one of few individuals fast enough to challenge for the MotoGP title.

At the beginning of the year I prayed to the speed gods that Dani could finally have a season without injuries, but he didn’t get very far into the schedule in spite of my wishes. Can he now please have half a season with no injuries? If he manages that, he may not win the title, but the racing will certainly be better.

Photo of the Week: Rolling Momentum

07/11/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

In 2009, I interviewed Marco Melandri after he’d done seven races on the Hayate Kawasaki, and was impressed by his earnest desperation to show he was still a viable GP rider in spite of the previous season’s debacle on the Ducati GP8. This was, after all, a rider who had finished second in the World Championship in 2005 and 4th & 5th in the following seasons. Since then I’ve always hoped for Melandri to find a good situation, one that allows his talents to shine.

That was not on the Gresini Honda last season, unfortunately, but it appears that he has finally found a position in WSBK where he can again fight for the title. After a win and a second place at Brno, Melandri is 53 points behind Carlos Checa and 30 behind MAx Biaggi, but with some serious momentum for the second half of the season. It’s great to see him at the front where he belongs.

Photo of the Week: Turning Point

07/05/2011 @ 7:12 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

As David Emmett and I spoke to Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis after Sunday’s GP at Mugello, Mr. Jarvis said “George earned his salary today.” The race at Mugello held several surprises. Rossi managed 6th place thanks to a substantial set up change Sunday morning; Casey Stoner tried to run away, but was caught and passed by two riders, including teammate Andrea Dovizioso; Dovi claimed the home town glory, and was the most impressive Honda rider; and Simoncelli not only finished a race but didn’t crash, and caused no broken bones.

To me, however, the stand out performance was Jorge Lorenzo’s, as JL showed precisely the mental qualities that Sic lacks at the moment. JL was patient, didn’t give up in spite of the early race plot indicating that Casey was as good as gone, and settled in to go the distance as fast as he could, eventually earning the win after several battles to reach the front. Because of the confidence this race must give Lorenzo, Mugello may prove to be a turning point in a season where most expect Casey Stoner to ride into the sunset.

Photo of the Week: The First of Many

06/28/2011 @ 9:09 am, by Scott Jones9 COMMENTS

At the 2011 Dutch Grand Prix, American Ben Spies became the only rider other than Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa to win a dry 800cc GP race. Spies led every lap in a fashion reminiscent of his days as 3-time AMA champion, where he was known as a rider so mentally tough from his years of being Mat Mladin’s teammate that once a lead was achieved, he could manage it until the end of the race without mistakes.

Spies also had great timing for his first MotroGP win, as Yamaha was celebrating 50 years of Grand Prix racing with a retro red and white livery and honored guests such as Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read in attendance. Congratulations to Ben and his crew, and to Yamaha for reaching the top of the podium on this historic occasion in the company’s history.