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.

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012 – Up 2.6%

02/05/2013 @ 6:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

452,386 Motorcycles Sold in the USA for 2012   Up 2.6% suzuki dirt bike jump 635x376

After first forecasting a sales decline for 2012, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) has tallied the number of motorcycles sold in the United States last year, and once again discovered that the motorcycle industry is slowly, but surely recovering from the recession. With the US making a very slight 0.3% sales gain in 2011, A&R‘s home market has posted a 2.6% gain over the figures from 2011, with OEMs selling 452,386 motorcycles in 2012.

Though all the two-wheeled segments showed growth in the MIC’s figures, it was the dual-purpose and scooter market that posted the biggest gains, 7.4% and 7.7% respectively. For the street bike market, sales were up a modest 1.8%, despite a much larger gain made by Harley-Davidson, which dominates over half of the US on-road market by volume. Dirt bikes also posted a modest 2.1% growth, with 71,535 units sold in 2012.

Rumor: New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Coming in 2013?

06/27/2012 @ 6:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Rumor: New Kawasaki Ninja ZX 6R Coming in 2013? 2011 kawasaki ninja zx 10r 635x476

If you believe the motorcycle rumor mill, the now long-in-the-tooth Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is set to get an update next model year. Now four years old, the ZX-6R has long shared a common thread with its 1,000cc brethren, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. With the ZX-10R now two-model-years-old though, the clock has been ticking as to when Kawasaki would give the ZX-6R a similar makeover. While still simply an internet rumor, there does seem to be some logic to the idea that we could see a new Kawasaki ZX-6R by the end of the year, though nothing can be for certain.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where?

03/07/2012 @ 1:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where? BMW R7 635x423

BMW Motorrad released yet another glowing sales report, as the German brand continues to build steam and market share in an otherwise luke warm and uncertain marketplace. Boasting a 1.8% worldwide sales increase in February and a 5.6% year-to-date (YTD) sales increase, BMW Motorrad has sold 12,078 motorcycles worldwide thus far in 2012. While the gains are modest at best, the news that BMW has found a way to grow despite the economy is something we have talked about ad nauseam. As such, I almost skipped this press release all together for our coverage, but then I saw a quote from Hendrik von Kuenheim, BMW Motorrad’s General Director.

American Suzuki Expects 9.8% Sales Decrease for Fiscal Year

02/07/2012 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

American Suzuki Expects 9.8% Sales Decrease for Fiscal Year 2012 Suzuki GSX R1000 EICMA 635x425

You know when a company starts quoting sales figures “in the last nine months of the year…” that the numbers from the first three months that they are not mentioning have to be pretty bad. Such is the case with American Suzuki, though the company’s overall performance continues to flounder in the this economy. In Suzuki’s fiscal nine-month period (April 2011 to December 2011), sales to North American dealers were up 160%, as wholesale unit sales to dealers rose from 13,000 units (mostly ATVs)  in 2010 to 34,000 units in 2011.

However despite shipping more models to dealers, Suzuki’s sales in North America were actually down 11.5%, as the Japanese company sold only 31,000 units in the nine-month period, compared to the 35,000 units it sold during the same fiscal period last year. Because of this dip in consumer sales, Suzuki has revised its sales predictions for the end of its fiscal year in North America from 50,000 units to 46,000 units. American Suzuki sold 51,000 units to consumers in 2010, meaning that for the 2011 fiscal year, Suzuki is expecting a 9.8% retail sales decline compared to last year.

Suzuki Q2 2011 – Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters

08/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Suzuki Q2 2011   Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters Suzuki GSXR 635x396

Sometimes when reading the posts made on other motorcycle sites, or the comments by readers across the web, I don’t think there is a full grasp as to how bad the recession was for the motorcycle industry. Granted company’s like Ducati, BMW, and Victory have shown remarkable growth in a down period, but their success, though due in-part to the failures of Harley-Davidson and the Japanese manufacturers, is limited on its bearing to the industry as a whole. This because, quite frankly, these companies comprise only a small portion of the industry’s sales, units, and revenue.

The fact that Harley-Davidson was so close to the brink that they dumped everything outside of its core business is but one sign that motorcycling was in trouble. Another sign would be that Suzuki reportedly didn’t import any new units for the 2010 model years, instead letting local inventories in the US handle the dwindling demand for the company’s motorcycles. The fact that the motorcycle industry as whole almost folded-up on itself like a tin can without anyone making a real fuss about it is perhaps a great signal as to how far various stakeholders heads are buried in the sand. So for our last attempt to put things into perspective, try this one on for size:

For the first time in nearly three years, Suzuki’s motorcycle division has posted a profit…or, the last time Suzuki made money selling motorcycles was Q2 2008 (the same timeframe that Bill Gates stepped down from his daily duties at Microsoft).

Harley-Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006

07/19/2011 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006 Harley Davidson Juneau corporate 635x421

Harley-Davidson had some good news to report in its Q2 2011 financial report, as the Milwaukee company reports selling 53,599 units to customers in the US during the three-month period, and total of 83,396 units worldwide (120,642 units worldwide so far this year). These sales figures translate into a 5.6% sales increase worldwide, and an even more impressive 7.5% sales bump in the United States market.

While those increases might seem modest, CEO Keith Wandell’s restructuring efforts have clearly been paying off for the Bar & Shield brand as operating income was up 36.8% for Q2, while revenue was up only 18% to $1.34 billion. This is also the first year-over-year quarterly rise for unit sales that Harley-Davidson has seen since the Q4 2006. Read that last sentence again, but it’s sort of a big deal for Harley-Davidson.

BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011

07/11/2011 @ 9:13 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

BMW Sales up 2% in June 2011 BMW K1600GT tilting headlight 635x357

BMW Motorrad continues to post improved sales in 2011, as the German manufactuer is showing a 2.1% increase for last month’s sales compared to June 2010. Selling 11,831 motorcycles in June of this year, BMW has sold 141,913 motorcycles in the first half of 2011, which means 6.3% more Bavarian motorcycles have been sold in Q1 & Q2 of 2011 compared to last year. BMW’s Boxer series is unsurprisingly leading sales for the company, fueled by the best selling big-displacement motorcycle in the world: the R1200GS.

BMW is reporting strong sales from the K1600 series as well though, with 1,255 units sold since its Spring 2011 debut. While BMW says that the new six-cylinder tourer is exceeding expectations, Husqvarna’s paltry 450 units sold last month is perhaps a bit of disappointment. Husky sales were down -57.3% for June, while year-to-date sales were down -24.2% with only 3,530 units sold in the first half of 2011.

US Motorcycle Sales up 7% in Q1 2011

04/25/2011 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

US Motorcycle Sales up 7% in Q1 2011 ktm 690 duke wheelie 635x422

The Motorcycle Industry Council is reporting that US motorcycle sales are up 7% in Q1 of 2011, with 102,547 units being sold in the year’s first three months. Leading the charge were scooter sales, which were up nearly 50% to 6,246 units, while on-road units were up as well, pushing 70,879 units in Q1 (a 6.9% gain).

Despite the strong numbers from on-road and dual-sport models, off-road vehicles did not fare as well, with ATV sales down 16% and off-road motorcycle sales down 5.5% (47,702 & 18,725 units respectively), making 2011 still a mixed bag depending on what side of the industry you are on.

Big Dog Motorcycles Shuts Its Doors

04/05/2011 @ 5:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Big Dog Motorcycles Shuts Its Doors 2009 Big Dog Motorcycles Coyote 635x476

More bad news from the business sector this week, as reports are starting to come in that Big Dog Motorcycles has shut its doors after being taken over by the company’s creditors. With the banks halting the production line, this is effectively the end of one of the largest (if not the largest) custom motorcycle builders in the world. Cyril Huze broke the news on his blog on Monday that the company had closed its doors, but Big Dog President Mike Simmons denied that news on Monday.

However Big Dog dealers have since confirmed that company owner Sheldon Coleman has contacted them, informing them of the bank’s take over, and that the business and production would be ceasing. Coleman is reportedly planning on starting a new company that would supply parts to current Big Dog owners.

Ducati North America Reports 68% Sales Growth for Q1 2011

04/04/2011 @ 5:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ducati North America Reports 68% Sales Growth for Q1 2011 Ducati Hypermotard 1100EVO SP 635x460

Ducati North America announced today that sales figures for the first quarter of 2011 are up 68% compared to last year’s numbers. The third month in a row of positive sales growth, Ducati’s North American market is clearly recovering from the recession, with all models in the company’s line showing positive growth. “We have had an outstanding start to the year,” said Cristiano Silei, CEO of Ducati North America. “We expect our growth to continue strong for the rest of the year with our most sought out newest product, the Diavel, just hitting dealer showrooms in late March.”