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.

Turbocharged Suzuki Recursion Going into Production?

News from Japan seems to suggest that Suzuki is making a production version of its Recursion concept. For those that don’t remember, the Suzuki Recursion Concept was based around a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine. The idea was to achieve liter-bike power from a middleweight-sized machine, thus offering enthusiasts high-power but nimble machines to ride. The news that Suzuki is putting the Recursion into production isn’t too far-fetching, though the original source does seem to be the not-always-accurate Japanese publication Young Machine. We will let you measure out how much faith to give that report, but make no mistake that a new era in motorcycle motor design is upon us.

MotoCzysz E1pc vs. Ducati 1199 Panigale S

10/12/2012 @ 2:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

When it comes to electric motorcycles, I am not interested in saving the manatees. I don’t stand around in Starbucks parking lots debating the finer points of offsetting my carbon footprint. It is perfectly fine if that is your calling in life, but when it comes to motorcycles, I am really only interested in one thing: going fast. I am not going to berate someone for wanting to save the environment, or decrease our dependency on foreign energy reserves — those are both worthy and important sentiments that I share as well, just not when it comes to my two-wheel decadence.

The only political debate I am interested in hearing during a discussion about motorcycles is the politics of the apex. If you want to talk about “the green movement” on a ride with me, it better be in regards to your Kawasaki, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with the electric motorcycle community. There are two types of operators in this space, and they are seemingly at odds with each other. One group is convinced that petroleum is an imperfect fuel source, while the other thinks that petroleum-burning motorcycles are imperfect machines.

We can reconcile both these factions with the notion that they are both correct in the big picture, but when it comes to adoption of electric vehicles, only the Steve Austin principle applies: better, stronger, and most importantly faster. The modern sport bike is an analog machine, and the electric superbike is its digital successor.

Over one hundred years of riding on the vinyl scratches and distortions of gasoline motors has blinded us to the future. We use words like warmth and character to justify our resistance to the inevitable change coming, but make no mistake that the mainstream will readily adopt the MP3 riding movement once it hits its critical moments in price and performance parity. This does not mean the death of internal combustion, after all you can still find audiophiles with tube amps and vast LP collections — a certain amount of the demographic has to be frozen in time, right Harley-Davidson?

There is this idea though that motorcycles can be better than they currently are now. They can be integrated machines, from fuel source to wheel-spin. Road inputs don’t have to be muted by engine vibrations, throttle adjustments can happen at the speed of light, and fine…we can also save the manatees in the process. The concept being discussed here is the Digital Superbike, and the man who coined the term is Michael Czysz.

Traveling to Portland, Oregon to see Czysz’s latest creation, I got see first-hand how the MotoCzysz E1pc was progressing with its digital revolution. Read-on for that account.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

08/02/2012 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven.

I suppose we could frame our discussion about the Mission R in the same tone that we would talk about other ultra-exclusive motorcycles, like for instance the Moto2-only Bimota HB4 or the connoisseur’s NCR M4 ONE SHOT. That kind of analysis would in essence read more like an art critique, since the closest any real motorcyclist would get to one these bikes is via a computer screen (perhaps the pages of a magazine, if that is your thing) or on display at some sort of public event, no doubt inside a corral of faux-velvet ropes. In that case, I could wax-on some of the best hyperbole possible, building the dream of riding such fantasy machine as far as possible. After all, the Mission R at the moment is complete unobtainium, and that only serves to fuel our product-lust further.

Just as equally, we could have a nitty-gritty discussion about the weights and measures of the Mission R. We could explore every technical detail that Mission Motors has available, and extrapolate everything else that the San Franciscan company would rather not disclose to the general public. We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps.

Simply the best electric motorcycle with a license plate, I suppose when pressed we could talk about the future of motorcycling, how electrics are coming of age, and how the Mission R is the embodiment of what performance parity looks like in a two-wheeled electric vehicle. Make like the Pope, get out the holy water, and let us convert some petrol-loving heathens, right? I think there is about as much of a Mormons-on-your-doorstop chance in hell of convincing any internal-combustion riding motorcyclist to see the light when it comes to electrons being the fuel of the future, so why don’t we just spare ourselves that sermon as well. So where does that leave us?

Instead, let us play an exercise in mental cognition. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal motorcycle. The design is fresh and edgy, but also refined and timeless. The motorcycle has all the right go-fast parts and brands: Öhlins WSBK-spec suspension, Brembo beryllium brake calipers, 10-spoke Marchesini forged-magnesium wheels, custom carbon fiber bodywork, and a bevy of other top-shelf components and accents. On the dynamometer, the torque curve on this mythical machine is shaped like a plateau, and the power comes on immediately, but is still smooth and linear. The motor has no flat spots, and there are no pits or falls on its dyno graph; and best of all, at the end of the day, this exercise in fantasy packs twice as much torque as your typical liter-bike. The cost for a day’s worth of fuel? About one dollar.

Hold all these elements in your mind for a moment, and then open your eyes. The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. Click past the jump for our account about riding San Francisco’s motorcycle playground on the Mission R electric superbike.

Ride Review: The 2012 BMW World Superbike Race Bikes

07/10/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Lorenzo Gargiulo10 COMMENTS

As often happens when a major manufacturer decides to take a major leap by participating in a World Championship series the media goes crazy, which is exactly what happened when BMW Motorrad decided to descend on the tracks of the WSBK Championship. At the time, there were those who said that the BMW bike would have never been able to win a race, but the majority of the voices in and out of the paddock were pretty united in the concept that “if BMW decides it wants to win, sooner or later it will reach its objective,” something that as we have seen that happened in relatively little time.

After three seasons of “apprenticeship” that were necessary to get all the cogs working smoothly and to acquire the necessary experience on the track, BMW has finally reached the necessary competitive edge to reach the front of the pack, and from the beginning of the 2012 season the S1000RR has established itself as a contender at the top of the leaderboards. BMW Motorrad for the third year in a row, has given its most accredited journalists the possibility to try its racebikes mid-season, and we were clearly not going to let this opportunity slip by us.

The first time we were given this opportunity, it was BMW Motorrad Italy who gave us the handlebars of the S1000RR Superstock bike with which Andrea Badovini dominated the FIM Superstock Cup, and the success of this journalist test was so great that BMW Motorrad proper (the Germans) decided to open up the test to the official team bikes. In the meantime the Italian BMW team had debuted in WSBK, and so in 2011 we had the incredible opportunity to try all three types of racebikes.

So here we are in 2012, with the S1000RR which won its first victories in the WSBK Championship. More competitive and intriguing than ever and as has become a tradition, we are again ready to try the newest racing bikes with the famous BMW propeller on their tanks. The location may be different, as we now find ourselves in Misano Adriatico (which should make the Monza track haters among us quite happy), but everything else remains basically the same.

For the format, there are now four bikes to try. The warm-up laps to learn the track will be done on a stock S1000RR street bike, followed by a ride on the Superstock bike belonging to Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni. Following these we get some laps aboard the BMW Motorrad factory bikes of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, and the day on the BMW Motorrad Italia machines that are campaigned by Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio.

Ride Review: Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/06/2012 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

An amalgamation of three already existing Ducati models, there is nothing surprising about the Ducati Streetfighter 848. A pick-and-pull creation from the Ducati engineering bay, the Streetfighter 848 draws upon the precedence defined by the Ducati Streetfighter 1098, the Ducati Superbike 848, and the Ducati Multistrada 1200.

A mirror image of the more well-endowed Streetfighter 1098, the Streetfighter aesthetic has been in the public eye since its Milan unveiling in 2008. Like its predecessor, the Streetfighter 848 is based off its Superbike counterpart, and shares the six-year old Ducati Superbike 848’s chassis geometry and namesake. At the heart of the baby Fighter is an 849cc Testastretta 11° engine, and as the name implies, the motor features the same power-smoothing 11° valve overlap architecture that first debuted on the Ducati Multistrada 1200, and has since carried forth with the Ducati Diavel.

We have seen before all the elements that comprise the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848, and indeed there is nothing revolutionary about Ducati’s latest street-naked, so it begs the question: is the Ducati Streetfighter 848 merely the sum of its parts? Or is it something more? Continue onward as we explore that question further.

Gone Riding: Ducati Streetfighter 848

04/04/2012 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we are in the Palm Desert testing the new Ducati Streetfighter 848. We’ll be spending most of the day playing with its revised chassis & traction control, and getting used to the baby Fighter’s wet clutch & Testastretta 11° engine. You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Twitter, and our last five tweets will automatically display here on this post.

Ride Review: Ducati 1199 Panigale

02/15/2012 @ 1:28 am, by Lorenzo Gargiulo29 COMMENTS

Fresh from the Ducati 1199 Panigale international press launch at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, our friends from OmniMoto.it have been kind enough to share their experience on Ducati’s newest flagship model, since Asphalt & Rubber wasn’t one of the American publications invited to test Borgo Panigale’s latest creation ( to let Ducati know that you want to see A&R at future events!).

Our Italian brother in arms, OmniMoto’s Lorenzo Gargiulo shares his initiation to the 1199, while riding around one the world’s most expensive race circuits…the lucky bastard. With much thanks to him, enjoy Lorenzo’s review and continue to countdown the months until A&R will get its own chance to flog the Ducati 1199 Panigale in a similar manner. -Jensen

It is a known fact that journalists like to complain to motorcycle manufacturers, because some OEMs give you too little notice before a press event, while others fill up your calendar with possible dates way before they have something set on their own schedule. In the present case, Ducati told us about this event almost two months ago, which for this writer has led to an incredible amount of performance anxiety that has lasted until today.

Consider this: we are testing a new bike, which is set to take the scepter as the Queen of all the Superbikes, and it is to be tested on a new track, the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where no journalist in the world had ever done a lap aboard a motorcycle. Accordingly, there was enough anticipation and excitement surrounding the event to make it difficult for anyone to fully process the true performance potential of the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale. Fortunately, the Panigale did not disappoint our expectations, and instead went way beyond them, unleashing breathtaking performances.

Ride Review: BRD RedShift Supermoto Prototype

12/04/2011 @ 10:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

It is a rare opportunity when a journalist gets to swing a leg over a prototype motorcycle. Virtually assured by definition to have perceivable flaws, effectively all the companies in the motorcycle industry prefer to keep the public and media at arm’s length until they have massaged their work into something that is ready for primetime consumption. Testing the BRD RedShift SM electric supermoto at Infineon Raceway today, we could attribute our good fortune to the fact that BRD Motorcycles (faster-faster.com) does not subscribe to the motorcycle industry’s status quo.

Conversely, we could also just as easily say that the boys at BRD are easily crazy enough to let a couple moto-journalists test the only existing example of what nearly a million dollars in motorcycle technology builds you, and the fact that those journalists are online blogger internet nerd types, well that just proves BRD’s insanity, right?

That notion of craziness comes almost without question though, as you would have to be crazy to think that you can take on the major OEMs in their own backyard. You would have to be crazy to give up the security of your day job to start a new venture in the worst recession since the 1930’s, crazy to convert your successful existing business into a risky startup, crazy to spend your accumulated life savings so every dollar raised goes into the company’s shared vision.

There is something crazy about what is going on with a small motorcycle startup in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as I not-so-prudently signed my life away on the test ride disclaimer today, Asphalt & Rubber got to see what manifestations BRD’s farce had produced since we last saw the BRD RedShift SM in August of this year.

Ride Review: 2012 Yamaha Zuma 50F Scooter

09/28/2011 @ 9:07 am, by Joanne Donn7 COMMENTS

As fuel prices continue to go up, you might be considering another way to go to the movies, meet your friends for coffee, or run a quick errand. Such is the case in an urban city like San Francisco, and, If you’ve ever visited my beloved city, you know how impossible it is to find parking on a Friday night in a trendy neighborhood like the Mission or the Marina. And if you’re lucky enough to find parking after circling the block for 30 minutes, what if your car doesn’t quite fit that awkward spot between two driveways?

Imagine pulling up on a scooter, parking within minutes, and walking right into the restaurant without worrying if you’ve made your reservation on time. You leave your helmet and gloves in the storage compartment under the seat, and sit down to dinner a minute or two early even. If that sounds like a better alternative to the usual metropolitan shuffle, a nimble little ride like the Zuma might be the perfect choice for you.

Ride Review: Riding the BMW S1000RR Superstock, Satellite Superbike, and Factory World Superbikes

08/01/2011 @ 6:56 pm, by Lorenzo Gargiulo2 COMMENTS

Our good friends over at OmniMoto.it have shared with us today their experience riding BMW’s World Supersport and World Superbike S1000RR machinery. Getting a chance to flog the bikes of Sylvain Barrier, Lorenza Zanetti, Ayrton Badovini, James Toseland, Leon Haslam, and Troy Corser around the famous Monza circuit in Italy, OmniMoto’s Lorenzo Gargiulo certainly had a tough day in the office. Even translated into English, this Italian bike tester is well…very Italian in his assessments, but we think the subtle differences between the Superstock, satellite Superbike, and factory Superbike shine through in his writing. Enjoy. — Ed.

There are opportunities in the moto-journalism profession that are to be jumped on, and this is one of them. I could tell you the story about how today, in order to reach Monza to try the three motorcycles I’m about to write about, I slept only 3 hours, or how I had to work on a Saturday, and how I had to somehow fit in 1,000 other obligations and make up a lot of excuses in order to free my schedule, but the basic fact is the following: the opportunity to ride on a track, three SWBK motorcycles is so overwhelming that everything else became of secondary relevance.

So, when I received the invite from BMW to go ride around Monza with the very best of its motorcycles, my response was simply the most obvious one… I’m COMING!

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.