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.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak

06/28/2013 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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In its second year of having a fully paved road course to the summit, it should come as no surprise then that qualifying for the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw the quickest time ever set by a motorcycle.

It should also come as no surprise that the man setting the record was Carlin Dunne, the 2011 race winner and rookie of the year, and 2012 race winner and outright motorcycle record holder.

Qualifying on the lower section of the Pikes Peak course, Dunne put down an astounding 4’13 lap time — putting him five seconds clear of his nearest two-wheeled competition.

While it is impressive that Dunne was able to beat out the Ducati Multistrada 1200’s in the 1205cc class, what is perhaps the most intriguing piece of news is that Dunne set the qualifying record while riding the Lightning Motorcycles Flying Banana*.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle

06/13/2013 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The competitors for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have just concluded a two-day tire test at the Colorado road course, and it should perhaps come as no surprise that our boy Carlin Dunne has posted the outright fastest lap for a motorcycle during the tire test (the Santa Barbara native set the outright two-wheeled course record last year on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S).

What is surprising about Carlin’s result at the tire test is that he was on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike. That’s right, the fastest bike so far for 2013’s Race to the Clouds is a 200+ hp electric superbike that is refueled with solar energy. Petrol heads, eat your heart out.

Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles for Pikes Peak

06/04/2013 @ 3:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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While our attention is currently focused on the 2013 Isle of Man TT, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is just around the corner. Perhaps the closest thing to the TT that we have here on American soil, Pikes Peak is the second-oldest motorsport race in the United States (the first being the Indy 500), and features riders and drivers who risk it all during the Race to the Clouds.

With that in mind, our boy Carlin Dunne is returning to Pikes Peak again this year, though he is trading in his gorgeous Ducati Multistrada 1200 for the “Flying Banana” of Lightning Motorcycles. A two-time winner, and outright fastest man ever on two wheels at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Dunne will be gunning for the race record for an electric motorcycle at this year’s event.

“I have a chance to be a part of something even bigger, to prove something to the rest of the world by riding this amazing electric bike. And I have to say, I’ve been testing it for a month, and it’s insane. It’s power and acceleration is like nothing I’ve ever ridden. When you light that fuse, hang on,” said Dunne.

Chip Yates to Defend Electric Motorcycle Record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Lightning Motorcycles

04/15/2013 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As the kids in the arcade used to say, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Upon hearing the news that Greg Tracy and Amarok Racing would be making an appearance at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Chip Yates has set aside his tinkering with electric airplanes for the time being, and come out of two-wheeled retirement to defend his title.

Trading in the world’s fastest pizza delivery bike for the Richard Hatfield’s Flying Banana (there really is no good way to write that, sorry Richard), Yates will compete on one of Lightning Motorcycle’s electric superbikes at the 91st running of the Race to the Clouds.

Greg Tracy to Race the Electric Amarok P1A at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

04/10/2013 @ 5:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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When Greg Tracy isn’t flipping cars for Hot Wheels, or busy on a Hollywood set doing stunts for filmmakers, you can find him racing to the clouds on two wheels and dominating the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. A six-time winner at Pikes Peak, Tracy can attribute more than a few of those wins to his time on the mountain with the Spider Grips Ducati team. But for 2013, Tracy will take on a new venture and race an electric bike with Canada’s Amarok Racing.

The announcement is a surprising one, considering that the last we heard from Greg, he was leaning towards a four-wheeled excursion up the mountain, if even competing at all. With high-altitude courses like Pikes Peak playing to the advantages of an electric motorcycle though, and Tracy’s formidable knowledge of the course’s now-paved 156 turns, the Amarok entry has the potential to top Chip Yates’s mark as the fastest electric motorcycle up Pikes Peak.

Video: Greg Tracy’s Sub-10 Minute Run up Pikes Peak

08/23/2012 @ 11:51 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Carlin Dunne and I might go back nearly a decade, but when it comes to Pikes Peak racers, Greg Tracy is sorta my hero. A six-time winner in the Race to the Clouds, when Greg isn’t racing in America’s second-oldest motorsporting event, he spends his off-hours as a major-production stuntman. You’ve probably seen him before, but just didn’t know it. Despite his blockbuster resume and besides being a boss on two-wheels, Greg also happens to be one of the nicest and down-to-earth people you will ever meet in motorcycle racing, let alone Hollywood.

Maybe it’s because when your job involves risking it all on a daily basis, you don’t take for granted the little things in life. Also at the same time, you probably don’t sweat the small issues that cloud what is really important at the end of the day. You would only have to spend a few minutes around Greg to find an anecdote to support that hypothesis. For as nice of a guy as Greg is in person, I would hate to be one his motorcycles in competition.

Racing up Pikes Peak with fractured vertebrae (Greg had a big crash the weekend before, filming a promo video for Audi & Ducati at Pikes Peak), Tracy was the fourth-fastest competitor ever, in any class, at the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Putting down a jaw-dropping 9’58.262 time up the 12+ mile course, with its 156 turns, Greg was just six seconds shy of Carlin’s class-winning time of 9’52.819. We would be hard pressed to imagine what that race would have looked like had Greg been 100% fit. Respect.

A video of that sub-10 minute run is after the jump.

Photos from the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

08/16/2012 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is already off the mountain, and onto Indianapolis, but I am still wrapping up my coverage of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second-oldest motorsport race in the United States, Pikes Peak gets a bit less fanfare than America’s oldest race, the Indianapolis 500 (apropos to my current locale). In general, the hill climb is a campy affair that is full of privateers, with that statement being even more relevant in the motorcycle class. More of a car event, than a bike one, it is the two-wheeled riders who are the real heroes in my mind, as stakes for any crash on the mountain is met with higher stakes, as well as trees, jagged rocks, and long drops.

Ducati is ever-present at the mountain, and brings with it another level of media attention for the motorcycles. The hope this year was that the Italian brand would not continue to race itself to the clouds, as Triumph was expected to arrive in force as well, with rider Joe Kopp giving Carlin Dunne and Greg Tracy a run for their money. This hope failed to materialize, with the 1205cc class hosting four Ducatis in total: the two backed Multistradas, as well as two Streetfighter entries. Now with the fully-paved course to the top, there was a lot of speculation regarding what sort of entries we would see this year in the motorcycle classes, though PPIHC put the kibosh on that fairly quickly, slotting the proper road bikes in the “Exhibition Powersports” class.

Watching the bikes file through, one after another, during the practice sessions, it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event. Supermotos and flat trackers rule the entry list; but more so, it is the style of the riders that gives it all away. Foot out with the bike pushed down and under was the status quo, with the occasional rider coming through with a knee out and the bike leaned over. I will probably explore this idea further later, but you can’t help but feel that Pikes Peak is in a transitional state. Stymied in its history, it will be curious to see if the event can evolve into something else. The road certainly has.

PPIHC: Motorcycles Shatter 10 Minute Barrier at Pikes Peak

08/12/2012 @ 9:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

With the road to the summit of Pikes Peak fully-paved now, riders not only had to contend with learning the 156 corners that comprise the race to the clouds, but they also had to learn the new asphalt sections that were paved after last year’s race. Getting three days of practice and sunshine on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course, on Saturday the weather hit the reset button, bringing rain down on the mountain, which made the road very green for racing the next day.

The sun returned for Sunday’s set of races though, with the motorcycles leading the charge up Pikes Peak. As with the previous years, the talk of class records falling was again high on the discussion list, which is unsurprising since Pikes Peak has added new pavement sections each year to the course. Though, with the asphalt now going all the way to the summit, the big question this year was by what margin the records would fall, and in the motorcycle category, whether a new class of motorcycle would dominate the mountain.

With most of the field still comprised of supermoto bikes and a handful of flat trackers, the 1205cc class showed the most diversity in entries, with BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, and KTM all represented. The PPIHC crew isn’t keen on full-fledged sport bikes racing on the mountain, relegating those entries that did show up into the exhibition class. Though many thought the sport bikers would dominate this year, it was the adventure-touring bikes in 1205cc class that would lay siege to Pikes Peak, in more than impressive style.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Takes Pole Position at Pikes Peak

08/10/2012 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Wrapping up their third day of practice on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) course, the motorcycles were on the lower section of the mountain, which also serves as the qualifying sector for Sunday’s big race. Repeating his performance from last year, Carlin Dunne took his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bike to the pole-position, clocking a 4’17.951 time on the lower section of the course.

Dunne’s teammate Greg Tracy is only a few seconds back on his Multistrada, posting a 4’20.443 time on the lower section, and taking the second-fastest lap time overall for the motorcycles. With Tracy riding stronger in the other sections, come race day the distinction should matter very little. After all, the hill climb is a race against the clock not the other riders, and Tracy has shown himself to be right on pace to give Dunne a hard time in repeating last year’s victory.

2012 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

08/09/2012 @ 7:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Ducati is in Colorado this weekend, taking part in the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second oldest motorsport race in the United States (the first being the Indy 500), 2012 is the first year that the Race to the Clouds will take place on a fully-paved road course, which is sure to bring a new chapter in this historic race.

Asphalt & Rubber made the great trek out to Colorado (braving the far-too-early mornings), and we are here mostly to heckle our boy Carlin Dunne, who won the race last year in his rookie debut (setting a course record no less). Riding with the Ducati Spider Grips Team this year, Dunne will be joining Greg Tracy, as the pair will again ride the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S up to the 14,000+ foot finish line.

Ducati hopes to continue its dominance on the mountain this year, and the Ducati has rolled out another iteration of its Multistrada 1200 S race bike, which we gushed over last year. It is hard to believe that the previous bike feels a bit dated now (though, we still wouldn’t mind a Pikes Peak edition MTS 1200 in our garage), but this year’s machine brings added refinery to the race bike, as well as an understated and classy, yet beautiful paint job.