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.

2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 – There’s No Replacement…

11/09/2016 @ 10:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

2017-aprilia-shiver-900-01

There is no replacement for displacement, as the old saying goes. That is the thought behind the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900, as well. Like the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, which also debuted at EICMA, the Aprilia Shiver 900 gets an engine and electronics upgrade for the 2017 model year.

The new 896cc 90° v-twin engine is a stroked out version of the old 750cc motor (stroke increased from 56.4mm to 67.4mm), which allows Aprilia to meet Euro4 emission standards, while keeping performance specs more or less the same.

To that vein, peak horsepower is now 95hp at 8,750 rpm, while peak torque is 66 lbs•ft at 6,600 rpm. Other changes for the 2017 Aprilia Shiver 900 include a new smoother ride-by-wire throttle, three-level traction control, and dual-channel ABS brakes.

Continue Reading

KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

2017-ktm-390-duke-06

The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

Continue Reading

Bradley Smith Explains MotoGP Electronics – Part 2

11/03/2016 @ 10:45 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

MotoGP-2016-Jerez-Rnd-04-Tony-Goldsmith-1698

Electronics in MotoGP remain a complex and fascinating subject. To help explain them to us, we had Bradley Smith talk us through the various options at his disposal on board his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1.

In the first part of this interview, published yesterday, Smith talked to us about the different electronics settings he has during practice and the race.

In the second part, today, the Tech 3 rider talks us through how he and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Guy Coulon, arrive at those settings.

Smith walks us through the different options available, and how he arrives at the right settings to use at a particular race track

Continue Reading

Bradley Smith Explains MotoGP Electronics – Part 1

11/02/2016 @ 11:09 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

2015-Saturday-MotoGP-Valencia-Scott-Jones-11

Electronics in MotoGP are an emotive subject. They are blamed for driving costs ever higher, and for taking ever more control out of the hands of the riders.

It was these factors that drove Dorna to push for the introduction of spec electronics, first through the introduction of a single ECU provided by Magneti Marelli, then the adoption of a single software platform used to control that ECU.

The rise in the use of electronics and the introduction of spec software have led to some confusion among race fans. Just what the software is capable of, and how much control the riders have over the software, is unclear to MotoGP fans, and to a large section of the media.

So to help clear that up, we had the opportunity at Brno to spend twenty minutes with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith, who walked us through the electronics systems and their use.

Smith is one of the more intelligent riders on the grid, and is able to explain complex subjects in clear and simple terms. In the first of a two-part interview with the 25-year-old Englishman, Smith tells us all about the electronics on his Yamaha M1, what they do, and how he sets them up.

Continue Reading

New Honda CBR1000RR Videos Confirm Inline-Four Engine

09/30/2016 @ 10:19 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

2017-honda-cbr1000rr-engine-headers-glow

After seeing the spy photos of the Honda CBR1000RR filming in Croatia, we already have a pretty good indication that Honda isn’t going to stray too far from the current Fireblade design. The chassis looks almost exactly the same as the current generation model, as does the engine.

The most recent teasers from Honda confirm this notion, with the Japanese brand showing us four glowing header pipes off an inline-four engine. The exhaust note should end speculation that a crossplane crankshaft has been added to the CBR1000RR, with a distinct “screamer” tone coming from its pipes.

Honda’s next video gives indication that the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR will have an LED headlight, a tip to the likely robust electronics suite that Big Red is bringing to its new superbike, which will compliment the major fairing design upgrade

With the tagline “Total Control” being touted by Honda, we can expect the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR to come with the bevy of electronic rider aids that we have come to expect from this segment: ride-by-wire, traction control, wheelie control, launch control, etc.

Continue Reading

2016 Triumph Tiger Sport Gets Updated

02/10/2016 @ 11:45 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2016-Triumph-Tiger-Sport-08

The Triumph Tiger Sport isn’t a model that we get here in the United States of America, but the adventure-sport model does round out Triumph’s European lineup quite well, slotting in between the Tiger 800 and Tiger Explorer (1,200cc).

For 2016, the Triumph Tiger Sport gets some updates, namely the same revamped 1,050cc three-cylinder engine that came to the Triumph Speed Triple earlier this year.

As such, the 2016 Triumph Tiger Sport will have increased torque and fuel economy, according to Triumph. The updated Triumph Tiger Sport also has a new ride-by-wire throttle, complete with riding modes, traction control, cruise control, ABS, and a slip-assist clutch.

Continue Reading

Ducati Monster 821 – A Midsummer Dream from Bologna

05/28/2014 @ 2:14 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Ducati-Monster-821-03

Once we saw the unveiling of the Ducati Monster 1200 at EICMA last year, we knew it was only a matter of time before Bologna wedged its new 821cc liquid-cooled motor into a mid-size Monster machine.

That feeling was fueled further by spy photos the 821cc Monster making their way onto the internet, and now we have confirmation of the mid-sized Monster, as Borgo Panigale has officially launched its Ducati Monster 821.

Borrowing the 821cc Testastretta 11° engine (112hp and 65.9 lbs•ft) found on the newly revised Ducati Hypermotard, and its cousin the Ducati Hyperstrada, the Monster 821 continues Ducati’s trend to repurpose powerplants for multiple product families.

The Ducati Monster 821 also continues Bologna’s new trend of building its lower-spec midrange motorcycles with double-sided swingarms, to help further stratify and differentiate its models.

Continue Reading

motoDNA: The Jerkiness of Jerky Motorcycle Throttles

02/14/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Mark McVeigh34 COMMENTS

motodna-throttle-02

Asphalt & Rubber is please to bring you the motoDNA column, which will be written by our good friend Mark McVeigh, of the motoDNA Motorcycle Academy.

Mark is a former international 250cc racer, as well as a former MotoGP engineer. His unique experience and perspectives on motorcycle dynamics and racing will be a regular feature on A&R. Enjoy!

In these high tech days of electronic fuel injection, you would expect motorcycle throttle response to be smooth as. However many of the latest bikes have a snatchy and jerky throttle response; especially around town at low speeds — feeling more like a switch than a throttle.

This is not just plain annoying, but makes holding a steady throttle in corners and riding in town tricky, often becoming a bigger problem in wet and slippery conditions. On the track, life can be even more difficult when the bike is closer to the edge of the tire, due to higher lean angles.

The throttle controls not only acceleration and traction but has a large influence on our bikes handling including weight transfer, steering and stability. The throttle is also our connection to the rear tire. If it’s linear and smooth, this is reflected in our riding performance.

We expect modern bikes to have smooth and accurate throttle response; but in fact throttle response is worse these days compared to carburettors of old. Why? In one word – Emissions.

Continue Reading

MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 – Stylish Sport-Touring

11/04/2013 @ 5:17 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

2104-MV-Agusta-Turismo-Veloce-Lusso-800-04

Though MV Agusta gave us a good insight into what to expect at EICMA, the company from Varese has finally debuted its sport-touring machine, the 2014 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800. Built around MV Agusta’s 800cc three-cylinder engine, the Turismo Veloce 800 and the Turismo Veloce Lusso 800 (the pannier-equipped higher-spec model) feature a 125hp and 62 lbs•ft of torque.

True to the current MV Agusta aesthetic, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 has obvious design cues from the MV Agusta F3 and MV Agusta F4, and translates those cues into a machine that is very sporty in nature. Slenderly built and having  performance in mind, the 427 lbs machine boasts the best in class power-to-weight ratio.

True to the spirit of MV Agusta’s brand, Giovanni Castiglioni reiterated that “nobody needs an MV Agusta in their garage, you buy an MV because it transfers emotions.” The 2014 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 is no different.

Continue Reading

2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200 with Aprilia Dynamic Damping

11/13/2012 @ 6:30 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Leaked well ahead of the EICMA show, we can now officially talk to you about the 2013 Aprilia Caponord 1200, Noale’s adventure-tourer. Using the chassis from the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 as its basis, Aprilia says it has modified the “robust” chassis to suit the Caponord 1200’s raison d’être, though you would be hard pressed to get a weight figure from the company.

Inside that presumably hefty chassis is a 128hp 1197cc v-twin motor with 85 lbs•ft of peak torque, which isn’t going to blow the doors off on any spec sheet comparisons. Instead, Aprilia is hoping to entice would-be Caponord 1200 owners with the bike’s bevy of electronics.

Continue Reading