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.

Silverstone Day of Champions Tickets Now On Sale

07/21/2016 @ 9:31 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Silverstone Day of Champions Tickets Now On Sale

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After several weeks of uncertainty, the future for Silverstone’s Day of Champions has been settled.

Questions started when the UK arm of Riders for Health ceased operations, but thankfully a new organization, Two Wheels for Life, has taken over the running of the Riders for Health, and will continue to support their programs aimed at providing primary health care in Africa.

The handover means good news for MotoGP fans as well. The Day of Champions is to go ahead as usual, on the Thursday before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

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Motorcycle Charity Riders for Health Shuts Its Doors

05/24/2016 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, then you surely have seen our banners supporting Riders for Health, one of the great charities to come out of the motorcycle industry.

The non-profit organization, based out of the UK, provides healthcare services to remote locations in Africa, utilizing motorcycles to traverse the uncertain terrain.

Started by Andrea and Barry Coleman, along with Randy Mamola (yes, that Randy Mamola), Riders for Health even had HRH Princess Anne as its patron, with major support from the FIM and the MotoGP Championship as well.

If you attended a MotoGP round in the US or UK, then you may have seen the Riders for Health auctions, or participated in the Day of Stars or Day of Champions events.

Therefore, it is unfortunate for us to report that Riders for Health will be closing its UK offices, effectively ending the charity’s operations.

Thankfully, some of Riders’ operations in a number of African countries will continue on despite this closure, as their operations have already transferred to local actors, governments, or organizations.

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MotoGP: Attendees for the Day of Champions at Silverstone Raised Nearly £200,000 for Riders for Health

08/29/2014 @ 8:54 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Thursdays at MotoGP races usually mean the first chance the media has to talk to riders for the week, both at their debriefs and at the pre-event press conference, but at the British Grand Prix it means something a little bit more special.

Helping raise money for Riders for Health, Silverstone played host to the Day of Champions event, which sees fans able to ride the massive British track, walk the pit lane and see bikes up-close, meet GP stars, and bid on one-of-a-kind GP memorabilia.

All of the money raised from Day of Champions will help Riders for Health ensure health workers in Africa have access to reliable, well maintained motorcycles and ambulances so that they can continue to deliver life-saving health care to 14 million people. The Day of Champions is a great event, and it supports a wonderful charity.

This year accordingly, Riders for Health is proud to announce that the 3,500+ fans in attendance helped raise £193,802 at the Day of Champions event, a figure which the UK government will match. Booyah!

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How to Hangout with Randy Mamola at Austin

04/07/2014 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Are you getting into Austin early for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas? Maybe you’re already there, sitting on 6th St. sipping down a cool beverage? May we recommend then that you set aside some time on Thursday, and head to the Circuit of the Americas race track for the Day of Stars, a special event put on by Riders for Health.

The official charity of MotoGP, and a cause near and dear to our A&R hearts, Riders for Health puts on two special events, one in the US and one in the UK, which give fans unprecedented access to the grand prix experience.

It goes without saying then that the Day of Stars event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet MotoGP stars, see the paddock and team boxes, and of course to hangout and talk motorcycles with Randy Mamola.

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Riders for Health’s Day of Stars Comes to MotoGP in Austin

02/18/2014 @ 4:40 pm, by Aakash Desai3 COMMENTS

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You definitely can’t buy happiness (nor love for that matter, *cue violin and post V-day sadness*), but you can buy a behind-the-scenes pass to the Austin, Texas for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas. Riders for Health, the official charity of MotoGP, is bringing its “Day of Stars” event to Austin and giving fans an exclusive view behind the world of MotoGP.

If satisfying your selfish desire to meet MotoGP riders and pit-crews, getting served a catered lunch, and taking your own bike for a spin at the Circuit of the Americas wasn’t existentially appealing to you, you can be rest assured that $375 out of every $500 ticket will go as tax-deductible donation directly to Riders for Health.

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Support Riders for Health – Fly to Valencia – Meet Rossi

10/07/2013 @ 3:58 pm, by Jake Fuchs2 COMMENTS

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Say you and a buddy decide to go to Valencia for the final round of the MotoGP season next month. You’ll need two round-trip flights. You’ll need some place to stay. You’ll need money for food, ground transportation, and of course, tickets for the race. How much do you think all that will cost? If you’re lucky, about $3.

Riders for Health – the official charity of MotoGP, with support from Bridgestone and MCN, is running a contest right now that, if you win, will have you and a friend flown from anywhere in the world to Valencia, put up in a four-star hotel, and given VIP treatment all weekend from November 8th thru 10th.

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Why Asphalt & Rubber Supports Riders for Health

10/03/2013 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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You would have to be living in a hole not to have heard about the video footage of a Range Rover plowing through a group of motorcyclists, and the chase through New York that ensued afterwards.

I say this not because the video has been the highest trafficked article on Asphalt & Rubber this week so far, though it is; nor do I say this because the video has been posted to virtually every motorcycle forum and blog on the internet, though it has; but instead because the video has elevated itself out of our obscure sport and into the national, if not international, public consciousness.

It is rare that motorcycling finds its way into mass media, and unfortunately it is rarely a good thing when it does so. Motorcycling by and large has an image problem in the United States. Few motorists commute via motorcycle, which means our industry is filled with people who come to motorcycles from either a hobby, sport, or lifestyle perspective, and because of this motorcycles remain on the fringe of mainstream society.

For some, that is the allure. Motorcycling is “something different’ which in turns allows a motorcyclist to express their individuality in an obvious manner. To illustrate this point, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of flame threads that start on forums and blogs can be boiled down to the premise that because your enjoyment of motorcycles is different from my enjoyment of motorcycles, it therefore must be wrong.

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Valentino Rossi Has Raised Nearly £250,000 for Riders for Health Over the Past 10 Years

09/02/2013 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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If you haven’t heard of Riders for Health, it is the official charity of MotoGP, and also happens to be Asphalt & Rubber‘s favorite cause to support. Last year I had the supreme opportunity to attend Rider’s biggest fundraising event, the Day of Champions, which was held the Thursday before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. While unfortunately I missed this year’s event (David and Scott got to attend though), I was very pleased to hear that British MotoGP fans raised £216,249 (over $336,000) for the charity.

That money will go towards helping Riders for Health to improve access to healthcare in Africa, where the charity relies on motorcycles to help bring healthcare professionals to remote villages, as well as reliably transporting medical samples, vaccines, etc. to places where four-wheeled drive vehicles cannot reach. I won’t go into a huge spiel about how awesome Riders for Health is, but if you want to read more about the great work these people are doing, you can read about them here.

While many in the MotoGP paddock have given endless amounts of support to Riders for Health, one standout supporter of this great cause is Valentino Rossi. During last Thursday’s rider auction, Rossi helped to raise £13,250 in just 20 minutes with nine items, which included a unique clay hand print, knee sliders, and the baseball hat he wore onto the stage. In total, the auction raised £77,090 for Riders, making Rossi’s star power account for over 17% of the money raised.

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Sign-Up: Riders for Health’s Day of Stars at Laguna Seca

04/02/2013 @ 3:48 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Sign-Up: Riders for Health’s Day of Stars at Laguna Seca

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For those who haven’t noticed, Riders for Health is our go-to charity here at Asphalt & Rubber, and in case you’re not familiar with Riders (that’s what the hip kids call it), the organization is a registered not-for-profit charity that was started by Andrea and Barry Coleman, along with some guy named Randy Mamola, and provides critical health care services to millions of people in Africa — all on the back of a motorcycle (health care workers on motorcycles can reach six-times as many people as their counterparts in SUVs and cars, booyah).

Also, the official charity of the MotoGP Championship, the two big fundraisers for Riders for Health are the Day of Champions, which is held on the Thursday before the British GP, and the Day of Stars, which is held on the Thursday before the US GP. Whereas the Day of Champions is a massive event held at the Silverstone Circuit that is attended by thousands of two-wheeled enthusiasts, the Day of Stars is a smaller, more intimate, affair that is open to only 50 lucky participants.

A chance to spend time with current GP riders and past GP legends, you really won’t get a better racing experience ahead of the Laguna Seca round (don’t miss the auction too, where you can buy all sorts of rider gear and memorabilia). We highly recommend signing up for the event if you are in town ahead of the Laguna Seca round. A full press release with all the details is after the jump.

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Trackside Tuesday: The Face of a Champion

10/09/2012 @ 2:26 pm, by Scott Jones13 COMMENTS

Even before I met Max Biaggi in 2011, I had the sense that here was someone who takes himself and his racing pretty seriously. From the immaculately trimmed facial hair, to his manner in the pit box, to his long career as a motorcycle racer, if there is anything he takes lightly, it is certainly not racing.

Some riders are approachable, quick to smile, who naturally put others at ease even on race weekends. Biaggi is not among this group. But I didn’t appreciate just how intense he is when he’s at work until, as one of my contributions to benefit Riders for Health, I decided to ask him to sign a print I was donating at last year’s Miller WSBK round.

I had brought a matted print of Biaggi from 2010 with me, and as I approached the track on Saturday morning I considered that it would likely fetch a higher price, and thus a greater donation to Riders for Health, if it bore Max’s signature. So I set about getting that done with no idea how easy or difficult it might be.

First I approached the Aprilia media officer, a pleasant fellow who worked with me, half in Italian and half in English, to come up with a plan to approach his star rider. He suggested we talk to someone in the pit box, someone who knew Max better than he did in his recently acquired role with the team.

We descended into the Aprilia garage and found someone whose exact role I never understood, but who also liked the idea of doing something for Riders for Health. He did not, however, care to be the one to bring it directly to Max. The three of us considered the situation and appealed to one of the senior mechanics, who gave us a sympathetic look and said in gestures instead of words that he wanted no part of the business.

We stood to the side of the box, waiting for inspiration, and I wondered if the plan were doomed. Max spoke to mechanics as if discussing matters of life and death. Team members approached him respectfully, presented their concerns for his comment, and left him alone. In some garages the guys joke and there is music in the business of racing motorbikes. In Max’s garage, it’s more like a war room, its business deadly serious.

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