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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

10/21/2013 @ 3:31 pm, by Iwan van der Valk17 COMMENTS

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Attending KTM’s launch of the 2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R in Spain, or friend Iwan van der Valk from Testmotor.nl has been kind enough to share his thoughts and review regarding Austria’s newest hooligan machine.

Getting a chance to put the KTM 1290 Super Duke R through its paces on the road as well as the track at Ascari, we are supremely jealous of Iwan’s experience. Hopefully KTM USA will let Asphalt & Rubber have a turn on the 1290 Super Duke R soon. – Jensen

For 2014, KTM is launching the third model of the Super Duke line, which they have been selling since 2005 (note: KTM mentions it’s the fourth edition because of the small upgrade in 2011).

The new KTM 1290 Super Duke R has a brand new 1,301 cc v-twin engine, that delivers a huge amount of horsepower (180bhp) and a mountain of torque (106 lbs•ft). The 1290 Super Duke R only weighs 417 lbs dry.

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Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel

03/17/2011 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Even before its launch in Milan last year, the 2011 Ducati Diavel has been the talk of the motorcycle industry since its first spy photo was released. It amuses me that Ducati chose to name the Diavel (say: dee-ahh-vole) after the Bolognese word for the devil. The linguistic foreplay from Ducati is just asking for a response from motorcyclists who feel that Bologna company has over-stepped its prescribed branding boundaries, and sold its soul to the Devil of bottom-line thinking.

While rife with metaphor, there is an important financial reason for the genesis of the Ducati Diavel. As I’ve already explained the business reasons behind Ducati’s choice (or non-choice) to make the Diavel in a previous article. My analysis continues from there, and brings us to the question of: How does the Ducati power cruiser ride, 240mm-wide tire and all?

Setting out to the City of Angels (I seriously couldn’t ask for better fodder from Ducati here), I swung a leg over the Ducati Diavel for a day of riding on some of Los Angeles’s finest and most well know routes. The short answer to how the Diavel fared: damningly well.

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Ride Review: 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré

11/21/2010 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber was recently one of a few blogs, along with the usual suspects from the American media, to be invited out to Arizona for Yamaha’s press launch of the Super Ténéré adventure-tourer motorcycle (because we know Americans have no idea what to do with an accented “e”, think “tay-nay-ray” for pronunciation…or just cheat like us and say “ten-air-ray”). The earth is orange here in Arizona, and between the mesas and evergreen forests, Sedona makes for a picturesque setting, that’s away from the bustling metropolitans and city life. This serves our purpose well as its an ideal environment to show-off the 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré against the desert’s beautiful backdrop and star-filled skies, but it also serves as the type of destination Super Ténéré owners would likely visit on Yamaha’s new motorcycle, putting us right in the shoes of the target customer.

A market segment based around compromises, adventure-tourers sit somewhere between the juxtaposition of dirt and touring bikes. Based on the idea that the journey doesn’t end where the road does, the adventure-tourer market has taken over from the Harley-Davidson crowd as the next expression of freedom on the open road. Essentially created by the BMW GS series, it is impossible to talk about adventure bikes without mentioning the GS, but other manufacturers as well have entered into this growing market, coming up with different ideas on what riders are looking for when they want to escape from the daily grind.

Built to ride both on and off the street, adventure bikes pose the unique problem of having to decide where to make the trade-offs between these two different purposes, and in this regard we find the 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré, leaning more heavily to the street side of this equation than say the BMW R1200GS. As a publication that centers around street bikes generally (hence the name Asphalt & Rubber), we too lean towards the street side of that equation, making the Yamaha Super Ténéré a strong congruency to what we look for in this motorcycle segment, and a bike we wouldn’t mind adding to our stable of daily riders and long-distance tourers.

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Ride Review: Honda Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)

07/22/2010 @ 6:05 am, by Tim Hoefer10 COMMENTS

Perhaps bigger news than the bike itself is the Honda VFR1200F’s much-anticipated dual-clutch transmission (DCT) model. What Honda has developed for the sport bike world is an automatic shifting technology to enhance the rider’s experience. Automatic transmissions are a rare breed in motorcycling, and we have no doubt that some of you out there may be asking: Isn’t part of being on the road and on the bike, about feeling personal freedom? Or mastering your machine with skill and control? As kids in high school didn’t we make fun of our friend that couldn’t drive a stick? Is DCT an upgrade or a substitution? Well folks, that was the other reason Asphalt & Rubber got to test ride the new VFR1200F, and we put the DCT through its paces.

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Ride Review: 2010 Honda VFR1200F

07/20/2010 @ 6:07 am, by Tim Hoefer8 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber was recently invited by Honda America to test ride the new 2010 Honda VFR1200F in both configurations of the standard manual-shifting model, and the all new and highly anticipated ‘automatic’ model with the dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Santa Barbara, California served as our amazing backdrop as we took to the road on the new VFR. On our first circling of the bike it did not take much time to figure out why the VFR community has nicknamed this model the ‘Buffalo’. Given it’s dominant headlight and fuel tank that carries a similar curve of a buffalo profile, the bike is however anything but ugly or slow.

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