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.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler73 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Scrambler is the bike from Bologna for 2015. Loyal Ducatisti might be more excited by the upgraded Ducati 1299 Panigale, or the all-new Ducati Multistrada 1200, but in terms of company growth and the future of the Italian brand, the Ducati Scrambler takes center stage.

With four waves of 30+ journalists coming to Palm Springs for the international press launch, it’s clear that Ducati is casting a wide net with the Scrambler, especially with the number of non-industry publications present.

The term “lifestyle brand” is often a four-letter word in the motorcycle industry, of course ignoring the obvious that all of motorcycling is a lifestyle choice in the first world, but nonetheless the term has been used liberally with Ducati and the company’s racing heritage.

That being said, the Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even.

This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand.

Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

Review: Dainese Made to Measure Leather Racing Suit

09/23/2014 @ 12:29 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Do you ride like Valentino Rossi, or maybe just want to look like him? I ask, because that’s the premise behind Dainese’s Made to Measure program. Giving everyday riders the same opportunity and attention to detail as the company’s sponsored racers, who compete at the heightest level of the sport, Dainese’s Made to Measure program allows you to order custom-fitting racing leathers, jackets, and pants from the trusted Italian brand.

If you have ever had the desire to get a custom-tailored business suit, the concept is pretty similar. Some riders want a custom fit in their leathers for its extra comfort, or the ability to add a custom design, or even to choose the materials. Meanwhile other motorcyclists look to Made to Measure because they have proportions outside of the norm, and don’t comfortably wear off-the-rack suits.

Similarly, enthusiasts who spend a lot of time in their leathers, like hardcore track riders or amateur racers, choose to go the custom route as well, in order to use team colors on their suits. I have even heard of a transgender rider who used the Dainese Made to Measure program in order to fit her unique needs and body dimensions.

To summarize what I’m trying to say here, we certainly are a diverse community in the motorcycling world, and that’s the thought behind what Dainese is doing with Made to Measure.

Getting a chance to try this service first-hand, you may have noticed recently that I was sporting some new leathers at the Energica Ego electric superbike press launch. They were the product of my participation in Dainese’s Made to Measure program last year.

The following is my experience in making a race suit with the Italian company’s custom apparel program, and since the bulk of Made to Measure orders are custom racing suits, it seems an appropriate measure for its service.

Ride Review: TerraCorsa – A 195hp “Dirt Bike”

08/05/2014 @ 12:09 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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I have made a number of bad decisions in my life, some of which have come hand-in-hand with my duties here at Asphalt & Rubber. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I can certainly think of a couple machines that I have naively swung a leg over with enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, the word “prototype”, used in only the loosest of definitions, has been involved in these endeavors.

With rare occasion though, I have been able to see trouble coming ahead of time, and have either had the prudence to step out of its way, or the foolishness to forge ahead with a “what could go wrong” attitude. I would add MotoCorsa’s TerraCorsa project to that latter category.

A proper 195hp superbike, designed by Italians to win road races, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an alphabet soup of features designed to make a rider go as fast as possible on asphalt.

So when MotoCorsa’s Arun Sharma gave me an opportunity to ride his “track bike” Panigale S, which he painted in Desert Storm beige and shod with Continental TKC 80 tires, well…I of course uttered “what could go wrong?” and graciously accepted.

On its face, the whole idea of taking a superbike off-roading is preposterous. No doubt, you are already making a list of all the things wrong with this idea, while pouring a cold glass of Hatorade in the process. And you’d be right in doing so.

The suspension travel is too short, the Panigale’s 1,199cc Superquadro v-twin engine has too much power, the riding position is all wrong, and let’s just skip over mentioning that the machine is a rolling bone fide crime against motorcycling. Ducatisti, pour out an espresso for this fallen Bolognese, but be forewarned that Arun and the TerraCorsa feed off the hate that this concept brings.

Before you sharpen your pitchforks and storm the castle gates at Borgo Panigale though, let me explain briefly how putting knobby tires on a purebred superbike isn’t as bad of an idea as you think. If anything, the gods must be crazy, because it is surprising how well the whole thing works. These crazy Oregonians are onto something…

Ride Review: Energica Ego

07/19/2014 @ 8:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Born out of Italy’s automotive epicenter in Modena, CRP Racing is a well-regarded engineering firm, whose roots can be firmly found in car racing’s premier class, Formula One. This year marks 45 years of CRP Racing’s tradecraft, and it also marks the public launch of the company’s Energica Ego electric superbike.

A project we first saw first-hand at the 2011 EICMA show, and later in the FIM eRoadRacing electric series, the company’s Energica Ego electric motorcycle seemed like an over-reach. The design was…umm, different…the naming was tough for English-speakers who were familiar with the Austrian school of thought regarding psychoanalysis, and CRP Racing’s experience with electric drivetrains was a huge question mark.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, where the Energica Ego project showed its resilience. The small Italian firm had found a drivetrain partner, its concept bike had been flushed out into a runner, and the folks from Modena were pushing forward with their plans to release a production model. However, we have seen plenty of electric motorcycle startups reach this point before, with the term “production” being used only by the loosest of definitions.

Arriving then at Alice’s Restaurant, a local motorcycle hangout near A&R HQ, I had plenty of skepticism packed with my leathers, helmet, boots, and gloves. However, the design of the Energica Ego had begun to grow on me — it wasn’t the same lustful wanting that I had with the lines of the Mission RS though, nor the racing-bred techno-orgasm that comes with the MotoCzysz E1pc — but it was a certain appreciation that the bird-like nose no longer rubbed me the wrong way.

Just as the Ego had evolved into something more refined and polished over time, so too had the company. After riding the Ego on a modest trip down one of the SF Bay Area’s favorite twisty roads, the impression was solidified —  if I arrived a cynic to the bike launch, I left Alice’s as a convert.

Ride Review: Honda CB650F ABS

04/09/2014 @ 10:05 am, by Iwan van der Valk14 COMMENTS

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For 2014, Honda broadens its range of affordable, smart looking, middleweights further with the new Honda CB650F ABS, and together with the Honda NC750 series, the brand now has covered virtually all types of riders in the street-naked segment.

The brand new (not-terribly-exciting) four-cylinder engine forms the trusty basis of a whole new series of motorcycles, as previously demonstrated with the NC models. Thankfully though, the 649cc motor picks-up extremely smooth from very low revs, and fills a round and creamy torque curve.

Apart from some vibrations in the bars and footpegs, there is nothing much going on below seven-grand; but once you pass this threshold, there is quite some lovely acceleration on tap. Still, we found the on-off reaction of the fuel injection to be harsh though: it was quite hard to get on the throttle smoothly on corner exit.

Here Are Five Essential Mobile Apps for Motorcyclists

03/17/2014 @ 2:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Chances are that if you are a regular Asphalt & Rubber reader, that means you are a pretty tech savvy person. So first of all, congratulations on your choice to get your motorcycle news and opinions in digital form, rather than waiting three months for the print guys to get their act together. Huzzah!

Of course, this also means that you have had to suffer through the endless onslaught of “Top 5″ lists that have inundated motorcycle “journalism” the past year or so. I’m pretty sure that in a few years, we will look back at the whole BuzzFeedification of news as the second worst idea to hit motorcycle journalism, right behind the idea of a content paywall — but I digress.

That being said, I did want to share with our A&R readers five apps that I use on my iPhone everyday, that maybe you haven’t stumbled upon. So in the interest of  better living through technology and all that jazz, I’ve created my own little Top 5 list — Yes, I’ve died a little bit on the inside because of this article.

Hopefully though there are couple apps on my list that you haven’t heard of, which will cause the overlap of your Venn diagram of “motorcycles” and “technology” to grow just a little bit more, and those make my personal ethical sacrifice worthwhile.

I realize in advance that this list leans towards iOS users. I’m hoping commenters will leave a few apps in the comments section that I might have missed (especially on other platforms), so we can spread the love around.

Ride Review: Ducati Monster 1200 S

02/23/2014 @ 5:59 pm, by Iwan van der Valk22 COMMENTS

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Over the last 20 years Ducati sold more than 275,000 Monsters, and now the Italians introduce an all-new 1,200cc version, which will make it not only the most powerful but also the heaviest Monster of the past couple of decades.

The 461 lbs (wet with a 90% tank of gas) beast will replace the aging Streetfighter 1098, and Ducati hopes it will sell a whole lot better. Mind you, there is currently a fierce competition in the Super-Naked segment so time will tell if they succeed.

We rode the Monster 1200 S model on the press introduction in Tenerife, so it’s worth noting that this bike has $2,500 worth of upgrades over the base model, such as Öhlins suspension, Brembo monoblocs, and lighter aluminum alloy wheels. It also does away with the 10hp restriction of the non-S version, bringing the total output to 145hp.

motoDNA: Bimota Tesi 3D E Track Test

02/21/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Mark McVeigh15 COMMENTS

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The Emilia Romagna region of Italy is a melting pot for the Italian motorcycle industry. Positioned in the middle of this province, also known as the “terra dei motori” or the land of engines, sits the motorcycle company known as Bimota.

In September 1972 the now famous designer Massimo Tamburini crashed his Honda 750 Four at Misano racetrack — the stack left him with three broken ribs. While recovering from his unfortunate incident, he constructed a tubular steel frame to handle the horsepower then being produced by the Japanese bikes.

The frame he constructed lowered the centre of gravity and reduced the weight of the original Honda. Called the HB1, the first Bimota was born. Bimota’s name is derived from its founders’ initials: Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini.

Bimota has a rich racing heritage and has carried such great names as Virginio Ferrari, Davide Tardozzi, and Randy Mamola. Also who could forget Anthony ‘Go Show’ Goberts awesome WSBK victory at a wet Philip island in 2000 aboard the Bimota SB8R!

Born from a young university graduate’s mind, it was Engineer Pierluigi Marconi’s university thesis (Tesi in Italian) that directly led to the Bimota Tesi 1D hub-center steered motorcycle in 1990, the 1, 2 and 3D standing for the various Ducati engines used in the models.

Ride Review: Honda CBR1000RR SP

02/18/2014 @ 2:23 pm, by Iwan van der Valk19 COMMENTS

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The 2014 CBR1000RR Fireblade is once again an upgrade of the existing model: Honda’s flagship race-rep was first introduced back in 2008, and though it has received a couple of small updates here and there, it hasn’t been properly updated in a lengthy six years now.

It’s not all bad though, as Honda now presents the most complete and best Fireblade ever: the 2014 CBR1000RR SP. Both the SP and standard model receive a slightly altered riding position, three extra horsepower and two full pounds of weight loss.

The SP model is further enhanced – quite predictably – by mounting higher spec components such as brakes and suspension. The front receives high-class Öhlins NIX30 forks and Brembo monobloc brake calipers, while the well known TTX36 shock upgrades the rear suspension.

Honda mentiones that the engines are ‘blueprinted’ – the different components are specifically selected to work better together – but this is not shown in the output numbers.

Video: An Honest Review of the Triumph Bonneville

12/11/2013 @ 12:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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Is there truth in motorcycle reviews? That seems to be a debate that crops up time and time again, as it is hard to believe the journalistic veracity of publications that are entirely dependent on the dollars that flow forth from the major motorcycle OEMs. The conflicts of interest are high, the deadlines are tight, and there is of course the small matter of people having a difference of opinions, which all leads to public mistrust.

So it is refreshing when we see a frank motorcycle review that is free from the entanglements of typical motorcycle assessments — you know, a real honest impression of how a motorcycle is built in the factory and rides on the open road.

With a review as honest as this about the Triumph Bonneville, our protagonist has almost assured himself of a short career in motorcycle journalism. Still, it certainly provides some worthwhile entertainment, as long as you are not easily offended. It is possibly not safe for work as well — not that you read A&R from the confines of your office chair of course.