Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Mission Motorcycles Becomes Mission Electric, Boats & Cars to Come, Mission R/RS Motos Delayed Until Q2/Q3 2015

Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces. Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.

Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM. It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

The Eleven of 2011   A Year in Review theelevenof2011 635x392

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Polaris Invests in Brammo’s $28 Million Series B Round

10/26/2011 @ 7:56 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Polaris Invests in Brammos $28 Million Series B Round brammo polaris 635x423

After being courted by several major OEMs according to our sources, electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo received a minority investment by  Polaris Industries today. The move will give Polaris access to Brammo’s proprietary electric powertrain technology, and positions the large OEM to enter further into the electric motorcycle market as a strategic partner to the Oregonian company. In the process of this investment, Brammo has also closed a $28 million Series B round of funding that also included contributions from repeat investor Alpine Energy and first-time Brammo investor NorthPort Investments, LLC.

Polaris has already been aggressively expanding into new market segments this year by buying both Indian Motorcycles and electric car manufacturer GEM. Polaris’s investment in Brammo, the two companies will form a strategic partnership that will presumably see Brammo’s electric drivetrain in different Polaris Industry products, which gives the American company a formidable ally in the move to electric-powered vehicles. For Brammo, the news bodes well as it not only means an infusion of fresh capital, a roadmap to further funding, and a step closer to a possible exit, but Polaris will also be sharing its vast array of technical, sales, and support knowledge to the electric startup.

Polaris Q3 Sales Up 23%

10/18/2011 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Polaris Q3 Sales Up 23% Arlen Ness Victory Vision 635x358

Polaris has just released its third quarter figures, with the American brand reporting a 23% increase ($35.6 million) in sales revenue for the months of July, August, and September when compared to the same time period last year. Those Q3 numbers continue the company’s upward trend this year, as year-to-date (YTD) sales for Polaris, when compared 2010, are up 37% overall ($111.4 million).

While sales have risen across all of Polaris’s market segments, its on-road vehicle segment, specifically its Victory Motorcycles line, has lead the growth for the company. With Q3 sales up 77%, and YTD sales up 83%, Polaris has been making strides against a market that has seen a massive decline from its Japanese competitors.

Indian Produces First Motorcycle Under Polaris Ownership

08/31/2011 @ 3:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Indian Produces First Motorcycle Under Polaris Ownership Polaris Indian Chief 1 635x476

Indian Motorcycle has released some photos of the first 2012 Indian Chief to roll out of the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa plant — the first motorcycle to be produced by the oldest American motorcycle company since its acquisition by Polaris. Nicknamed the “Polaris-Indian Bike #1,” the new Chief is not terribly different from the 2011 Indian Chiefs built under the old regieme, but it does symbolize the next chapter in the iconic company’s history.

Polaris Posts 41% Sales Revenue Gain for Q2 2011

07/20/2011 @ 9:27 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Polaris Posts 41% Sales Revenue Gain for Q2 2011  Victory burnout 635x420

Polaris has been the company on the move in 2011, and its second quarter earnings show why. Gobbling up Indian and then later GEM, Polaris has shown that it has an appetite for growth, which has been fueled by its strong sales, which have increased in revenue by 41% over Q2 2010. Perhaps more impressive is that the American company has parlayed that increase in revenue into a 90% increase in net income over the same time period, which has been a boon for the company’s shareholders and a testament to the company’s reduced-cost structures.

Recall: 2011 Victory Cross Country

06/07/2011 @ 6:13 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Recall: 2011 Victory Cross Country 2011 Victory Cross Country 635x476

Polaris is recalling 840 Victory Cross Country motorcycles made from January 1, 2011 through April 11, 2011 for faulty handlebar clamps/risers that may have been improperly machined. Because of the defect, the handlebars may slip in the clamps, resulting in a lack of control over the motorcycle.

Accordingly, Polaris will be notifying affected owners, and Victory dealers will test and replace the defective parts free of charge. The recall is expected to start in June of this year, and concerned Victory Cross Country owners can contact Victory customer service at 1-888-704-5290. The NHTSA, as always, is also available at 1-888-327-4236 or safercar.gov.

Source: NHTSA

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors   But What Does It Mean? Zero Motorcycles Mark Blackwell 635x453

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

How Does Polaris View the Indian Acquisition?

04/25/2011 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

How Does Polaris View the Indian Acquisition? indian vintage Ralf Turander 635x370

Polaris released some interesting info this past week to its stockholders, perhaps the highlight of which was how the Minnesota-based company views its acquisition of the Indian Motorcycle brand. Disclosing a brief summary of its plans, it’s clear that Polaris aims to go after the heavy-cruiser segment with a two-pronged approach, much in the same manner as we postulated back on Wednesday after news of the acquisition broke.

More important than stroking our own egos, two pieces of interesting insight came from Polaris’s SEC filing 8-K filing. First was a glimpse into what the purchasing price of Indian could be, as a slide to investors shows Indian’s 2010 revenue as being $11 million, which would peg a baseline asking price of about $9 million, though the perceived brand value could raise that price. The second juicy morsel is how Polaris sees Indian fitting in with Victory, showing the potential of tripling Polaris’s motorcycle sales in the future.

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.

Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle

04/19/2011 @ 3:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Polaris Acquires Indian Motorcycle Indian Motorcycle cylinders 635x412

Polaris Industires has just announced its acquisition of the historic Indian Motorcycle company. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the deal sees one of the most historic names in American motorcycling finding a home with a major player in the motorcycle industry. The move is an interesting one for Polaris, as the company already owns cruiser and touring motorcycle manufacturer Victory Motorcycles.

According to the company press release, Indian will function as an autonomous business unit, but will likely gett help from Polaris’s engineering department, along with the obvious supply chain and purchasing power of the larger brand.