Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Broventure 2014 – Day Four: No Bad Days

09/11/2014 @ 6:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Broventure 2014   Day Four: No Bad Days twisties 635x476

One of my favorite phrases has to be “no bad day” — as it encapsulates everything about a motorcycle. There are no bad days on a motorcycle. There can be bad weather, there can be breakdowns, and even crashes, but never a bad day. My second favorite phrase is “if you’re not having fun on a motorcycle, you’re doing it wrong.”

This ties into the prior idea. If you’re on a motorcycle, you’re exploring new roads, you’re hanging out with good friends, you’re living this short existence we call life. Even when the unthinkable happens on two-wheels, the moment right before was spent in sheer bliss. Since we all have to punch out at some point, that seems like a pretty good deal on an inevitably losing hand.

I feel like this is a mantra that goes well with the adventure-touring segment. Breaking free of our nine-to-five lives, getting outdoors, and seeing where the road goes once the sidewalk ends. That’s at least what the marketing materials from OEMs tell us; and of course, the adventure is what you make of it.

Broventure 2014 – Day Three: 50/50

09/09/2014 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Broventure 2014   Day Three: 50/50 like a boss 635x846

The third day of a trip begins the true measure of the adventure. You see, on the first day, you’re excited to be on the open road, and ambition mixed with some adrenaline fuels you. The second day, there remains enough of a connection to back home, that you haven’t truly left it behind yet. But by the third day, the miles being to take their toll, and a trip truly begins to gel. The Broventure is no different.

Despite being one of our shorter days, 210 miles in total, the 50/50 mix of off-road riding made it one of our hardest. We were truly off the beaten path, judging our route not by its direction or duration, but by the conditions on the various “roads” we were riding. They ranged from packed gravel, to loose rock, to rough dirt, and ended with a proper baptism of off-road fire.

Expansive views, sheer drops, and thirsty miles dominated Day Three, but you wouldn’t know it by our demeanor. Tired yes, but Oregon, Washington, and Idaho gave us plenty for our effort. The Bros are gelling too…and where perhaps Colin and Pete were resistant to the eyeroll-worthy “Broventure” mantle, they’ve embraced the spirit…or maybe that’s just the heat and dehydration talking.

Broventure 2014 – Day Two: An Embarrassment of Riches

09/08/2014 @ 12:20 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Broventure 2014   Day Two: An Embarrassment of Riches hypervista 635x471

Day Two of the 2014 Broventure sees us riding from The Dalles, and ending up in Northeast Oregon, near the town of Joseph. It’s our first proper day of riding as a group of five, and our route is a solid 380 miles in length, approximately 60 miles of which is off-road fire trails. This all means there has been plenty of miles through which to get to know my fellow companions.

I’m not sure what contribution my presence brings to the ride, other than some sort of written/photographic record, but the rest of the group is very dynamic. Ronnie likes to pop wheelies on his Triumph Street Triple, usually down elevated freeway on-ramps — he’s also putting us to shame with his Dunlop DOT race tires on the gravel roads.

Quentin is easily distracted by cats, even when negotiating with locals over a five-gallon can of gasoline — I worry about him. Pete is our rock, and if I can be a bit self-centered, I’m grateful for every mile that his eight-gallon BMW R1200GSA is near me…as I’ll be the first one stranded on the side of the road, looking for a gas tank to siphon.

Colin is the glue the binds us, as he’s probably the only one of us who actually knows where we’re going. He’s planned an amazing route for our trip, which has us connecting an epic series of remote roads. He’s also even reluctantly accepted the “Broventure” title that these pages carry, or so he says.

Broventure 2014 – Day One: Getting Out of Dodge

09/06/2014 @ 11:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Broventure 2014   Day One: Getting Out of Dodge no bad days 635x423

For the next four days, I’ll be on the road, riding and writing another Broventure for you all to enjoy. The plan is for our trip to take us through Oregon, Washington, and Idaho — through some of the best mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve been following the Asphalt & Rubber social media accounts, you may have seen that I’ve been putting together a slightly modded Ducati Hypermotard SP for this trip (skid plate, radiator guard, heated grips, luggage rack, and Pirelli Scorpion tires), as our route includes both twisty asphalt roads and mild/moderate off-road trails.

I’ve always been a fan of the new Hypermotard, and I’ve been curious to see how it goes as a smaller ADV option to the more “purpose-built” Ducati Multistrada 1200. I have no delusions however about the bike’s small fuel tank and fairly uncomfortable seat — sometimes you have to roll a hard six.

Speaking of the magic number, six of us in total will be going on the trip, half of the group I haven’t met before; but all of us seem to be connected in multiple ways, and everyone shares the same passion for bikes and getting out of Dodge, and onto the open road.

Ride, Eat, Sleep, & Repeat

01/02/2013 @ 6:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Ride, Eat, Sleep, & Repeat ride eat sleep repeat

I stumbled across this simple graphic ages ago, presumably on Tumblr if the file name is any indication, and only rediscovered it tonight while I was going through some old thumb drives. I think for many motorcyclists, it sums things up nicely in a succinct sort of way.

Gone Riding: Ducati Streetfighter 848

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

Gone Riding: Ducati Streetfighter 848 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848 22 635x475

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.

Gone Riding: Ducati Diavel

03/04/2011 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Gone Riding: Ducati Diavel 2011 ducati diavel 53 635x423

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we’re in Los Angeles testing the new Ducati Diavel. We’ll be spending most of the day figuring out how to turn with a 240mm rear tire, and getting rocketed by the Diavel’s 162hp reported power figure. You can follow our thoughts on the bike via Twitter, and our last five tweets will automatically post here on this post. While we ride The Devil, the press photos of the Diavel after the jump should tide you over until we finish our ride report.

Gone Riding: Yamaha Super Ténéré

11/04/2010 @ 8:12 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Gone Riding: Yamaha Super Ténéré 2010 Yamaha Super Ténéré official 20 635x410

Things will be a little slow on A&R today, as we’re in Arizona testing the new Yamaha Super Ténéré. We already put 70 miles on Yamaha’s adventure tourer yesterday, and today’s route will take us on 200+ miles of mostly road, with a few dirt sections. You can follow our thoughts on the bike via Twitter, although admittedly they may come in spurts as there is limited cell phone reception here in Sedona (cell towers have been replaced with breathtaking views of mesas and desert). Some press photos of the Super T after the break should tide you over until our ride report.

Ride A Yamaha in the Palm of Your Hand

03/15/2010 @ 6:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Ride A Yamaha in the Palm of Your Hand iphone 560x290

Yamaha has gotten on board with this amazing new age device called “the iPhone”. You may have heard about this crazy thing that kids are using, and perhaps even seen a segment about it on 60 Minutes. Helping fuel the addiction, Yamaha’s application brings riding a Yamaha street bike or dirt bike into the palm of your hand…we think. Our Japanese is admittedly not so good…as in, no one here at the A&R office speaks it.

Despite this setback, we’re fairly certain the idea behind this iPhone application from Yamaha has to do with reving a make believe motorcycle with one’s closed hand, and pretending that an YZF-R1 or YZ450F is blowing your hair back, all while wearing a black Alpinestars glove. If that’s still not clear, check out this video after the jump for a demonstration of how to use the iPhone application from various angles and riding modes. You can download the application and try it your self here.