Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

06/10/2016 @ 6:53 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors.

Details beyond this statement are lean however, though we can imagine that the news is in response to rival cruiser brand Victory Motorcycles continued push of its electric prowess with its Victory Empulse TT electric street bike, and its racing programs at the Isle of Man TT and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

This announcement is fairly superfluous, however. Lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.

The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

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Polaris Trademarks “Victory Charger” – An Electric Cruiser?

02/05/2015 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Trademark applications with the USPTO show that Polaris has registered “Victory Charger” as a mark to be used with “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

The application is a strong hint that we could see an electric cruiser from the Victory brand, which is owned by Polaris, in the coming future.

The news is especially timely, as Polaris just acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and plans on building electric motorcycles at the company’s facilities in Spirit Lake, IA.

As if there wasn’t already enough fuel for the fire, on a product roadmap for investors, Brammo listed an “eCruiser” as a possible future model — a model that could easily be repurposed for the progressive Victory cruiser brand.

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Matt Levatich Named The New CEO of Harley-Davidson

02/04/2015 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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In a surprise press release late-today, Harley-Davidson announced that Matt Levatich will be taking over as the company’s CEO, starting May 1, 2015. Levatich will replace current CEO Keith Wandell, who took on his role in the company on May 1, 2009 — in the middle of the great economic recession.

The news is perhaps less shocking to industry insiders and analysts, who are familiar with the reasons behind Wandell’s tenure as CEO, and where Harley-Davidson stands today.

For sometime now we have been wondering when Harley-Davidson would initiate the next phase of its business plan, and whether Wandell would be a part of the company going forward.

As the symmetry of the tenure shows, today’s news is also a tip by Harley-Davidson that the swap in CEOs is due more to a new company direction than a reflection on performance.

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Harley-Davidson Continues Search for EV Workers

12/31/2014 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Think the Harley-Davidson LiveWire project was just a stunt for shareholders? No one can say for certain, of course, but the Bar & Shield brand is continuing its search for experts in electric vehicle production…which we doubt anyone would have believed 10 years ago.

Right now Harley-Davidson has two positions posted on its career portal — a Staff Technical Engineer and a Advanced Manufacturing Project Engineer — both of which refer to an EV/Electrical project at Harley-Davidson.

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The One Overlooked Detail on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/20/2014 @ 10:44 am, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

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At the time this article will be posted, it will make the sixth article relating to Harley-Davdison’s Project Livewire that is on the Asphalt & Rubber homepage. The Motor Company’s first foray into electric motorcycles made its way into not only every motorcycle publication around the world, but it also hit mainstream media like wildfire.

A topic more heavily saturated at this point than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and yet everyone of the publications carrying the story, including A&R, overlooked one critical thing about Project Livewire’s launch. The attached graphic is the five-day stock price of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), and that large spike is the Livewire’s unveiling time.

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Leaked: Tech Details on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

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Thanks to our network of Bothan spy tipsters, we posted today the still-unreleased photos of the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire. Details were light from our sources though, but Bothans are a tireless breed (note: for new readers, we sort of have this whole Star Wars motif on leaked stories…just roll with it, we already know we’re nerds).

While the consensus on Project Livewire seems to be that it’s a looker, the devil is in the details…and now we have those as well. Featuring a three-phase induction motor with 55 kW of power (just under 74hp) and 52 lbs•ft of torque, the Harley-Davidson Livewire is packing more power than both the Brammo Empulse R (54 hp) and Zero SR (67 hp). That’s the good.

The bad is that despite its hefty casing size, the Harley-Davidson Livewire motorcycle is a little light in the loafers when it comes to battery capacity. Our guesstimate on battery pack size, judging from Harley’s quoted charge time and parameters, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 kWh nominal, a bit less than the 9.3 kWh and 10.0 kWh of the Brammo and Zero.

That means the Harley-Davidson Livewire is good for just over 50 miles of mixed city and highway riding that is limited to 92 mph (we’re not really sure how Harley-Davidson came up with that figure). Expect to go 0-60 in around 4 seconds.

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Leaked: First Photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 7:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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The folks in Milwaukee didn’t invite Asphalt & Rubber to the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire launch and subsequent press embargo, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over publishing the latest find from our Bothan spy network (for the record, A&R has never broken a press embargo that we were invited to).

That all being said, here are the first official photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle — the Bar & Shield brand’s foray into electric motorcycle scene — for your viewing pleasure.

Details are still spotty of course (update: you can read the tech specs here), so we will leave that bit of journalism to the publications that Harley-Davidson deemed worthy (maybe it was something we said?). For our part though, we can see a full-glass dash though, which is another first for Harley-Davidson, as well as an LED headlight.

The big kickers will be the price and range, of course. South of $20,000 and north of 100 miles would really make Project Livewire a strong contender on the market. It will remain to be seen if Harley-Davidson can get under/above those two metrics, respectively, though.

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Harley-Davidson Livewire Teaser Site Setup

06/18/2014 @ 6:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Three Harley-Davidson posts on Asphalt & Rubber in a single day? Surely the gods must be crazy. But like a Coke bottle to the head, things are about to get pretty out of control in the American motorcycle landscape in a big way. Setting up a dedicated launch site for its first electric motorcycle, Harley-Davidson isn’t tipping its hands too much officially, though in 11 hours we should know a lot more.

Usually with marketing lingo, you can see the hyperbole for what it is, but in the case of the Harley-Davidson Livewire, the Bar & Shield brand’s statement seems more like an honest assessment, rather than typical industry grandstanding:

“There are milestones that change history – those pivotal moments where the future is defined. This is one of them. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our 111 years. This is the next chapter of our journey. Whether you’re a rider or not, we’re inviting you to take part in the experience, and be there for this historic ride forward.”

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Harley Trademarked “Livewire” for Electric Motorcycle

06/18/2014 @ 2:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

livewire

Harley-Davidson is releasing an electric motorcycle tomorrow, did you know? Something that we were put onto two years ago, alluded to last year, and spied last week, a quick stroll through the US Patent and Trademark filings shows that the “Livewire” name was registered by Harley-Davidson, for use on “motorcycles and structural parts therefor.”

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Electric Harley-Davidson “Livewire” to Debut Tomorrow

06/18/2014 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson has just posted a video to its YouTube, which teases a new model coming tomorrow, June 19th, 2014. The video itself is devoid of any information, with a sole blurred motorcycle jetting past a Route 66 sign. The only hint we have on what to expect is the unmistakable sound of an electric drivetrain at full-tilt.

We first broke the news about Harley’s electric motorcycle two years ago, and we have already caught the electric Harley-Davidson on the Avengers: Age of Ultron film set, looking pretty much ready for production, including DOT reflectors, so this revelation isn’t completely out of left field.

A quick stroll through Harley-Davidson’s trademark filings shows the “Livewire” name being registered with the USPTO back in November 2012. The name can also be spotted on the side of the motorcycle that was seen on the Avengers set.

After our story broke last week, our spies reported that a launch of that machine was said to be coming later this week. With this announcement, all the pieces of the puzzle now seem to fit.

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