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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Ducati 1199 Panigale R Circuit of the Americas 53 635x422

The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

Moto-Journalist Kevin Ash Has Died at a Press Launch

01/23/2013 @ 9:40 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Moto Journalist Kevin Ash Has Died at a Press Launch Kevin Ash 635x400

It is with a very heavy heart that we report the passing of famed moto-journalist Kevin Ash, who died of injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash today. Riding north of Cape Town, South Africa, Kevin was taking part in the press launch of the 2013 BMW R1200GS adventure-touring motorcycle, with the launch now being cancelled after this tragic news.

A legend in the industry, Kevin’s work could be found in a countless number of publications, including MCN and the Daily Telegraph, not to mention his own blog Ash on Bikes. Known for his technical knowledge, clear writing, and honest reviews, Kevin’s work was seen by many in the industry as the gold standard of motorcycle reviews.

Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale

02/15/2012 @ 1:28 am, by Lorenzo Gargiulo29 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale Ducati 1199 Panigale press launch Abu Dhabi Yas Marina 21 635x422

Fresh from the Ducati 1199 Panigale international press launch at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, our friends from OmniMoto.it have been kind enough to share their experience on Ducati’s newest flagship model, since Asphalt & Rubber wasn’t one of the American publications invited to test Borgo Panigale’s latest creation ( to let Ducati know that you want to see A&R at future events!).

Our Italian brother in arms, OmniMoto’s Lorenzo Gargiulo shares his initiation to the 1199, while riding around one the world’s most expensive race circuits…the lucky bastard. With much thanks to him, enjoy Lorenzo’s review and continue to countdown the months until A&R will get its own chance to flog the Ducati 1199 Panigale in a similar manner. -Jensen

It is a known fact that journalists like to complain to motorcycle manufacturers, because some OEMs give you too little notice before a press event, while others fill up your calendar with possible dates way before they have something set on their own schedule. In the present case, Ducati told us about this event almost two months ago, which for this writer has led to an incredible amount of performance anxiety that has lasted until today.

Consider this: we are testing a new bike, which is set to take the scepter as the Queen of all the Superbikes, and it is to be tested on a new track, the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where no journalist in the world had ever done a lap aboard a motorcycle. Accordingly, there was enough anticipation and excitement surrounding the event to make it difficult for anyone to fully process the true performance potential of the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale. Fortunately, the Panigale did not disappoint our expectations, and instead went way beyond them, unleashing breathtaking performances.

Yas Marina Circuit + Troy Bayliss + Ducati 1199 Panigale S

02/13/2012 @ 3:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Yas Marina Circuit + Troy Bayliss + Ducati 1199 Panigale S 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Yas Marina Circuit 021 635x444

The International press launch of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is underway in Abu Dhabi this week, with initial reports on Ducati’s flagship superbike being very positive. A track usually reserved for cars, not bikes, the Yas Marina Circuit is really something to behold. Situated on a man-made island off the Abu Dhabi coast, the Middle-Eastern track cost a cool $1.32 billion to construct back in 2009, and holds the distinction for being one of Formula One’s night races.

Such a setting is of course appropriate for Ducati to introduce its latest creation, and the Italian company will be showcasing the first production motorcycle with an LED headlight, the first sport bike with electronically-adjustable suspension, and of course putting journalists on the company’s much-talked-about “frameless” monocoque chassis design. Expected on dealer floors in April, the base model Ducati 1199 Panigale will cost $17,995, while the “S” will cost $22,995, and “S Tricolore” will hit the wallet for $27,995 MSRP.

While we wait for the Panigale to come across the Atlantic Ocean, Ducati has put together this video of Troy Bayliss taking a lap around the 21 turns of the Yas Marina Circuit. It’s an oddly edited video, but should bring grins to the Ducatisti in your life. Be sure to turn your speakers up to hear the Superquadro v-twin motor in all its glory.

Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel

03/17/2011 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel Ducati Diavel Asphalt and Rubber 635x422

Even before its launch in Milan last year, the 2011 Ducati Diavel has been the talk of the motorcycle industry since its first spy photo was released. It amuses me that Ducati chose to name the Diavel (say: dee-ahh-vole) after the Bolognese word for the devil. The linguistic foreplay from Ducati is just asking for a response from motorcyclists who feel that Bologna company has over-stepped its prescribed branding boundaries, and sold its soul to the Devil of bottom-line thinking.

While rife with metaphor, there is an important financial reason for the genesis of the Ducati Diavel. As I’ve already explained the business reasons behind Ducati’s choice (or non-choice) to make the Diavel in a previous article. My analysis continues from there, and brings us to the question of: How does the Ducati power cruiser ride, 240mm-wide tire and all?

Setting out to the City of Angels (I seriously couldn’t ask for better fodder from Ducati here), I swung a leg over the Ducati Diavel for a day of riding on some of Los Angeles’s finest and most well know routes. The short answer to how the Diavel fared: damningly well.