Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

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.

WSBK Concludes Three Days of Testing in Portimao

01/28/2011 @ 9:13 pm, by Victoria Reid2 COMMENTS

WSBK Concludes Three Days of Testing in Portimao Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda WSBK test Portimao 635x599

Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.

All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.

MotoGP TV Ratings Bounce Back with Valentino Rossi’s Return at Sachsenring

07/19/2010 @ 9:30 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

MotoGP TV Ratings Bounce Back with Valentino Rossis Return at Sachsenring Valentino Rossi television ratings 560x373

Auditel (the Italian version of Nielson), is reporting that MotoGP TV ratings were up during the German GP, which coincidently was also the venue for Valentino Rossi’s return to motorcycle racing. The loveable Italian rider is more popular than pasta in his home country, and with Rossi back in the premiere class, MotoGP’s ratings got a big shot in the arm. Reporting 5.5 million viewers during the German GP, Auditel estimates that nearly 43.5% of Italian TV viewers were watching the GP. Warning, spoilers after the jump.

MotoGP TV Ratings Continue to Drop Without Rossi

06/28/2010 @ 5:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MotoGP TV Ratings Continue to Drop Without Rossi broken television1 560x373

TV ratings for the Dutch TT at Assen are in for the Italian TV market (one of the largest markets for MotoGP), and once again they show a decline in MotoGP’s allure without Valentino Rossi. With 2,579,000 viewers, making up 16.79% of the total television audience, MotoGP in Holland attracted only half the audience from last year’s event (5,249,000 viewers, 31.69% of the total television audience). With a similar trend in 125GP and Moto2, some in the Italian press are calling for Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta’s resignation, as these ratings are surely a sign of the sport’s demise.

MotoGP Television Viewership Drops with Rossi Gone

06/22/2010 @ 5:54 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

MotoGP Television Viewership Drops with Rossi Gone Valentino Rossi Silverstone British GP absent 560x373

The British GP was the first full GP weekend without The Doctor present to charm the television with his media moxie (did we mention his crash was “worth” $8 million?), and as such we get our first glimpse into what the repercussions are for MotoGP with Rossi out of commission. Checking TV viewership, MotoGP’s stop at Silverstone saw a 20% decline in total viewership when compared to the last two GP’s at Jerez and Le Mans. The result is that advertisers in some markets are asking the local stations that cover MotoGP to readjust there viewership claims and media rates to account for the loss of audience.

Arai Tops J.D. Power & Associates Helmet Rankings

05/21/2010 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Arai Tops J.D. Power & Associates Helmet Rankings well used arai helmet 560x374

For twelve years in a row, Arai Helmets has topped J.D. Power & Associates motorcycle helmet rankings for customer satisfaction. This is important because J.D. Power also found that highly satisfied owners are more likely to buy their brand of helmet again (that’s a no brainer, right?). The kicker though is that the likelihood of a repeat customer is nearly 10x more likely when they are highly satisfied with their helmet. In a world where it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one, a 10x multiple is a staggering figure on how product quality plays into a company’s sales and growth strategy.

JD Powers and Associates Ranks Motorcycle Helmets

05/27/2009 @ 1:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

JD Powers and Associates Ranks Motorcycle Helmets rossi mugello motogp 560x377

J.D. Power and Associates has completed its 2009 Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are in. In their research, J.D. Power & Associates measures the overall satisfaction of motorcyclists with their new helmet in three key factors:

  • ventilation 
  • face shield
  • design and styling

These three factors are then marked into 11 attributes:

  • quietness
  • ventilation/air flow
  • de-fogging
  • the face shield’s ability to keep the wind out 
  • the face shield’s ability to resist scratching 
  • ease of replacing the face shield 
  • scratch resistance of the shell
  • color/graphic design
  • weight
  • ease of fastening the strap
  • fit and comfort.

Continue reading after the jump for the results.