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.

Understanding the Ducati XDiavel, A Review

08/06/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The Ducati XDiavel is another big step for the Brand from Bologna, as the modell pushes further into the territory first pioneered by the Ducati Diavel, and hopes to give cruiser enthusiasts a design that speaks a little bit more of their native language.

With forward controls coming standard, along with a low and raked chassis design, the XDiavel is unlike any other Ducati on the market, and it takes some time to wrap your head around that fact.

These changes though allow Ducati to move boldly into an area dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson. That is a tall mountain to climb, as the Bar & Shield brand has a chokehold on the cruiser-riding faithful, who flock to the American brand not because of what it does, but because of who it is.

This makes winning the hearts and minds of cruiser riders an exceptionally difficult task – one too that is not easily undertaken. The first step in mounting the assault on that summit is to develop a motorcycle that has no equal. In this regard, Ducati has a fighting chance.

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Ride Review: Yamaha FZ-10

08/02/2016 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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What makes a good streetfighter? In the past, the formula was simple: you would take a potent superbike, strip it of its fairings, and maybe attach a flat handlebar, shortened exhaust pipe, or some other distinctively “urban” modification. Boom. Dank wheelies.

Now, the formula isn’t quite as clear. Power is still a must, and a certain level of hooligan-cred helps, but the market has begun to ask for more from these “super naked” or “hypernaked” motorcycles.

Commuter and touring duties have entered the space, electronics have become standard, and a certain level of refinement is expected – such are the treacherous waters that the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 must navigate, all while hitting a budget-friendly price-point.

That is no easy list of criteria for a single motorcycle to juggle, but such is the nature of life, the universe, and everything. The FZ-10 fancies itself up to the task though, and Yamaha has high hopes for this streetfighter…err, super naked…or whatever you want to call it.

A such, Yamaha recently invited Asphalt & Rubber out to the Tennessee / North Carolina border, to ride over 150 miles (including The Tail of the Dragon) to see how the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 stacks up to the hype, and to the competition.

I came away impressed with this “retuned” Yamaha YZF-R1 for the street, though with some caveats. Keep reading, and I will explain further.

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Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

01/27/2016 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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There is a tongue-in-cheek joke amongst moto-journalists when it comes to new MV Agusta models: that each new machine is “the best motorcycle yet” from the Italian brand. The unspoken punchline of course is that each new model has such an incredibly low bar to surpass, that it is a relatively easy to be the next “best” motorcycle in the lineup, and thus it’s easy to lead a bike review with such a hyperbolic statement.

That joke has been slowly fading away though, and it is becoming more of an honest reality, as MV Agusta’s motorcycle lineup has evolved from a family of luridly appealing motorcycles that unfortunately are also deeply flawed, to a brand of machine that can boast the competence to match its striking beauty.

Nothing better proves this point than MV Agusta’s three-cylinder platform, which was mired by half-baked electronics and fueling at its debut in 2013, and now survives as a supersport/middleweight platform that should be on every rider’s short-list of must-ride motorcycles.

It is this trend that sees MV Agusta now updating its 800cc platform for 2016 (the 675cc machines will see an update soon enough), notably with Euro4 emission controls in full-effect.

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case.

The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines.

Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

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Ride Review: BMW S1000XR

05/27/2015 @ 6:59 pm, by Iwan van der Valk17 COMMENTS

BMW S 1000 XR

Attending BMW Motorrad’s launch of the 2016 BMW S1000XR, our friends from Testmotor.nl have been kind enough to share their thoughts and a short review on BMW’s new “Adventure-Sport” motorcycle. – Jensen

BMW Motorrad admits that the S1000XR is a combination of the S1000RR and the R1200GS…a pedigree to be proud of, but also one that creates a lot of expectations.

The German company would like to join the party of all-road focused adventure bikes, which has conquered the market these last couple of years.

BMW calls this the “adventure-sport” segment and hopes to steal some sales from bikes like the Ducati Mutistrada, Suzuki V-strom, Honda Crosstourer and Kawasaki Versys.

In turn, BMW is trying to avoid in-house competition with its own GS, by giving the S1000RR more sportive looks and less rugged, more vulnerable construction.

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Not-A-Review: I Finally Understand the Polaris Slingshot

04/30/2015 @ 4:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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All the way back in February, I got an email from a loyal A&R reader, Tone, who had just put a down payment on the Polaris Slingshot. He had just sold his Honda RC-51 to make room in the garage for his new three-wheeled toy…to put it shortly, he was excited for his soon-to-arrive “motorcycle”.

I love meeting enthusiastic readers because they remind me why I started Asphalt & Rubber in the first place: for the love of motorcycles.

But, I have to admit…I didn’t quite get the fuss about the new Slingshot — and to sell an RC-51 (a bike I wouldn’t having in mind two-wheeled collection) for one? That seemed sort of blasphemous — may the Gods of Motorcycling forgive this transgression.

Tone’s enthusiasm and offer to give me a ride in his scoot, once it arrived, won me over in the end though. After all, if you’re not having a good time in a motorcycle, even a three-wheeled one, you’re probably doing it wrong. Right?

Fast-forward several months, once Polaris finished up its wheel bearing recall, and Tone was meeting me in Portland for a quick after-work joyride. For the tl;dr crowd, I take back every word of doubt about the Slingshot I’ve ever uttered in public and in private.

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Ride Review: Aprilia RSV4 RF

04/30/2015 @ 3:18 pm, by Ilja Pokorny24 COMMENTS

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Attending Aprilia’s launch of the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR & RF in Italy, our friends from Testmotor.nl have been kind enough to share their thoughts and short review on Aprilia’s newly update superbike.

Getting a chance to put the Aprilia RSV4 RF through its paces at the Misano Circuit near the Rimini Coast of Italy, Ilja’s thoughts are timely, as Aprilia has recently entered into the MotoAmerica Championship with the revised RSV4. – Jensen

After a great many success in World Superbike, Aprilia claims to have improved the venerable 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR street bike once more. Aprilia’s halo motorcycle has lost a couple of pounds and its power output has risen to a punchy 201hp.

To celebrate this milestone Aprilia not only unleashes the standard RR version, but also a limited run of 500 units for the “RF” (Racing Factory) bikes.

The RSV4 RF hosts obvious upgrades such as forged wheels, Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and a WSBK-inspired color scheme. To see how the updated RSV4 goes, we were invited to review RF #77 out of 500, on the newly resurfaced Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”.

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Gone Riding: Yamaha YZF-R3

03/12/2015 @ 12:15 am, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are out near Willows, CA testing the new Yamaha YZF-R3. We will be spending the first part of the day on a 120-mile street ride, and then following that up in the afternoon by riding the new “West Course” at Thunderhill Raceway.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #YamahaR3USA & #FirstRideR3 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

Yamaha’s entry into the small-displacement space, the YZF-R3 specifically fills a void in Yamaha’s lineup for a small-displacement, learner-focused, sport machine.

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Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

02/25/2015 @ 1:02 pm, by Mark McVeigh27 COMMENTS

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When the R1 was first launched it became an instant icon. A tri-axis engine with a GP style chassis was cutting edge technology back in 1998.

The bike has evolved through the years with fuel injection, a crossplane crank, and electronic systems amongst the hundreds of development upgrades.

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.

A team of 50 design engineers worked closely with Yamaha’s MotoGP team and test riders from divisions in Japan, Europe, and the US, including Valentino Rossi and US rider Josh Hayes, to come up with perhaps the most technologically advanced electronics package on a motorcycle ever made available to the riding public.

Many of the senior engineers were in attendance at Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek in Australia for the R1 world launch, providing excellent technical support for the test riders and a unique insight into the challenges they each faced creating the new R1.

The 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time.

The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle.

Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about. 

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Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

02/07/2015 @ 5:47 pm, by Iwan van der Valk30 COMMENTS

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Despite its huge dimensions, not to mention a 30 liter fuel tank, the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure never looks big or bulky. In fact, it is only when you mount the hard luggage that you can tell this bike can really cover long distances.

Apart from a dorky little exposed wire from the heated grips near the throttle, the fit and finish is very high-end, especially the integrated curved lighting in the tank — it is quite a sight. The standard pannier racks look great too, but that means you are stuck with the OEM luggage options which – on the 1190 anyway – were not that great.

At first glance the Super Adventure doesn’t have the massive personality and stance of its German rival, the BMW R1200GS Adventure, but that is in part due to the white color scheme and the absence of the typical beak as a front mudguard.

KTM is going about things differently, and that is something that appeals to many riders…including us.

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A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

12/11/2014 @ 1:47 am, by Jensen Beeler79 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.

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