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.

Ride Review: Energica Ego

07/19/2014 @ 8:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Ride Review: Energica Ego Jensen Beeler Energica Ego electric superbike launch Scott Jones 02 635x423

Born out of Italy’s automotive epicenter in Modena, CRP Racing is a well-regarded engineering firm, whose roots can be firmly found in car racing’s premier class, Formula One. This year marks 45 years of CRP Racing’s tradecraft, and it also marks the public launch of the company’s Energica Ego electric superbike.

A project we first saw first-hand at the 2011 EICMA show, and later in the FIM eRoadRacing electric series, the company’s Energica Ego electric motorcycle seemed like an over-reach. The design was…umm, different…the naming was tough for English-speakers who were familiar with the Austrian school of thought regarding psychoanalysis, and CRP Racing’s experience with electric drivetrains was a huge question mark.

Fast-forward to the 2013 EICMA show, where the Energica Ego project showed its resilience. The small Italian firm had found a drivetrain partner, its concept bike had been flushed out into a runner, and the folks from Modena were pushing forward with their plans to release a production model. However, we have seen plenty of electric motorcycle startups reach this point before, with the term “production” being used only by the loosest of definitions.

Arriving then at Alice’s Restaurant, a local motorcycle hangout near A&R HQ, I had plenty of skepticism packed with my leathers, helmet, boots, and gloves. However, the design of the Energica Ego had begun to grow on me — it wasn’t the same lustful wanting that I had with the lines of the Mission RS though, nor the racing-bred techno-orgasm that comes with the MotoCzysz E1pc — but it was a certain appreciation that the bird-like nose no longer rubbed me the wrong way.

Just as the Ego had evolved into something more refined and polished over time, so too had the company. After riding the Ego on a modest trip down one of the SF Bay Area’s favorite twisty roads, the impression was solidified —  if I arrived a cynic to the bike launch, I left Alice’s as a convert.

BRD Motorcycles CEO Starts Unique Crowd-Funding Model

04/01/2013 @ 7:37 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

BRD Motorcycles CEO Starts Unique Crowd Funding Model marc fenigstein 635x635

Looking to close its Series A round of financing, San Francisco EV startup BRD Motorcycles has had to rethink its investor-appoach strategy, as the venture capital market in California has gone through a reset as a result of the past economic recession.

“It has been brutal this past year talking to investors,” explained BRD Motorcycles CEO Marc Finegstein. “In fact, it was actually easier to raise capital during the recession than it is currently right now. For the last few years, you just had to be bullish…you know, polish your PowerPoint deck, shift your paradigm, and make sure you were best in breed. But now, with all the bad paper that has been going through the market, the traditional funding sources have all but dried up.”

Countless dinners and evenings wasted, Fenegstein often returned to the office the next day with nothing to show for his hard work from the night before. Facing increasing production and development costs, it was clear that something had to change in the company’s funding strategy.

So, when asked what sort of measures BRD was taking to close its funding objectives for the Series A round, the young CEO exhaled slowly, sat back in his chair, and only hinted at BRD’s new investor-pitch strategy. “Let’s just say our funding strategy is more ‘hands on’ than it was before with our investment circle,” he said while staring blankly out his office window.

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors

10/10/2012 @ 2:36 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Layoffs Reported at Mission Motors Mission Motors Mission R test ride 06

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word that Mission Motors has let go of a significant portion of its staff, both on the engineering and non-engineering sides of the San Francisco based startup. With the layoffs presumably the result of a lack of funding, the news comes interestingly just a few months after the departure of Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Moe, who made his return back to Vectrix in July of this year.

The bulk loss of its workforce is certain to be a blow to Mission Motors, which according to our sources, still has a core team in place to continue basic business operations. Making the switch from being an electric motorcycle company to supplying electric drive components to OEMs in Q1 2010, it wouldn’t surprise us if some of the now former Mission Motors employees found their way into other electric motorcycle manufacturers, and today’s news paints an interesting picture for the future of the Mission R electric superbike.

Lit Motors is Runner-Up at TechCrunch Disrupt Conference

09/14/2012 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Lit Motors is Runner Up at TechCrunch Disrupt Conference Lit Motors C1

One of my daily stops in the blogsphere is a little tech blog called TechCrunch, which is known for its pretty firm grasp on the pulse of Silicon Valley, and balances its coverage of this fantasy ecosystem we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area with the appropriate amount of irreverence. As much as I like the site, the two-wheeled coverage of TechCrunch is fairly abysmal in its analysis and superficial in its depth, but that is probably a good thing, since it keeps me gainfully employed.

That being said, we should all be thankful for any coverage outside of motorcycling’s very small footprint, as when a tech blog behemoth like TechCrunch covers motorcycles, it exposes our little industry to a new audience of potential future motorcyclists. Such is the case with Lit Motors, which before this week was an obscure EV startup with a novel idea, but now after being named the first runner-up of the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco conference, the Lit Motors C-1 has significantly more buzz about it.

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

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

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R Mission Motors Mission R test ride 23

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.

LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl Rides thru San Francisco

07/25/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

LCR Hondas Stefan Bradl Rides thru San Francisco LCR Honda Stefan Bradl San Francisco US GP 09 635x423

LCR Honda and team rider Stefan Bradl are in town early this week, doing a little promo work for US GP title sponsor Red Bull. Before heading down to Laguna Seca tomorrow (a track Bradl already scouted out with a local track day earlier this year), Bradl was in San Francisco yesterday, popping wheelies on Treasure Island and trying not to crash while going down Lombard Street (any SF motorcyclist could have told you the treachery of the iconic San Franciscan street).

MotoGP.com’s video of the event might be a little less than inspiring, but let us all just be thankful that the folks are Dorna actually made one of their YouTube videos web-embeddable for a change. Meanwhile, the photos from Red Bull are quite a treat. 23 of them await you after the jump.

Video: Ken Block Gymkhanas San Francisco — Awesomeness Tenuously Linked to Motorcycles

07/10/2012 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Video: Ken Block Gymkhanas San Francisco    Awesomeness Tenuously Linked to Motorcycles Ken Block Gymkhana San Francisco

Asphalt & Rubber readers are an eclectic group of men and woman, and I am not going sully the romance we have going on here by lying to you guys with some sort of convoluted web of reasoning as to how a nearly team minuted Ken Block / DC Shoes / Ford Focus video is related to motorcycles — because well frankly, it’s not. Yeah sure, there is a 12 second Travis Pastrana cameo tucked-away in there somewhere, and that might be enough material to spin-doctor the snot out of this puppy, but here’s the deal:

First, the video is awesome in that 12-year-old boy discovering bottle rockets sort of way. Second, the video is set in my home town, and we all know how militant I can be about the Golden State, whose border I draw somewhere just south of Ojai. And third, the video is an example of great marketing, and it is such an easy example of what can crossover into motorcycles, it pains me that we here in the two-wheeled world haven’t answered back with something even better. Enjoy after the jump.

Mission R Spotted in Street-Legal Trim

03/01/2012 @ 10:31 am, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

Mission R Spotted in Street Legal Trim Mission Motors Mission R headlight street legal 04 635x474

To be filed under the heading: “right place, right time,” I had the good fortune of catching Mission Motors’ Mission R out on the streets yesterday, as one of the San Franciscan company’s engineers took the bike out while doing errands at the SF Dainese Store. Stopping by the store myself to show off the Zero S that’s been camping in my living room for the last two weeks, I quickly found my thunder stolen by Mission’s two-wheeled masterpiece.

Of course, any opportunity to see the Mission R is a treat, as the electric superbike is not only a delicious dish in person, but it also happens to have no problem doing supersport lap times at Laguna Seca when Steve Rapp is on-board. However, what made this sighting of the Mission R extra special was the fact that Mission Motors has outfitted the Mission R with a headlight, mirror, and most importantly, a California license plate.

Other choice pieces include an Android-powered Samsung tablet that fills in as the Mission R’s digital dash, which is sure to tickle the fancy of our geekier readers. If you are an SF native, keep an eye out for the Mission R on the city streets, the rider you see might be a Mission Motors engineer, a Hollywood celebrity (we hear Ryan Reynolds has been jonesing for a Mission R like something fierce), or a Fortune 500 executive.

Video: BRD Proves Electrics Can Hoon Too

02/13/2012 @ 5:46 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Video: BRD Proves Electrics Can Hoon Too BRD RedShift SM stunt San Francisco Ryan Moore 635x444

BRD Motorcycles continues to make progress with the company’s first electric motorcycle: the BRD RedShift. Asphalt & Rubber thoroughly enjoyed our time on BRD RedShift SM prototype when I rode it around the Infineon karting track, which makes me confident that the San Franciscan company’s small legion of wait-listed buyers will be pleasantly surprised by the electric motorcycle’s pep when it becomes available later this year.

Producing now a quick video of the BRD RedShift SM hooning around San Francisco, it could be that the guys at BRD want to build a little buzz about the RedShift before the company goes to Indianapolis to woo potential dealerships at the Indy Dealer Expo. Or maybe, the over-aged children at BRD couldn’t help but have a little fun between their 25hr work days. Either way, stunt rider Ryan Moore finds a way to put his creative and electronically-powered stamp on all the fine neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Bonus points for the pan-around shot in front of the Broadway strip clubs guys…not that we’ve been there.

SF Premiere of Fastest Raises $1,500 for Riders for Health

12/14/2011 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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I just got the box office and donation results in from our screening of Fastest last Thursday night, and I’m very happy to report that we raised $1,500 for Riders for Health that evening. Hosted in conjunction with the San Francisco Dainese Store (thanks D-Store Crew!), we had a packed house of over 250 MotoGP fanatics for the SF premiere of the sequel to Faster. Director Mark Neale even drove up from Los Angeles, and signed posters, DVDs, and t-shirts, in addition to participating in the Q&A after the screening.

Those in attendance had a chance to win a signed Randy Mamola illustration by Rich Lee Draws, a Marco Simoncelli Photo Tribute by Scott Jones Photography, and a signed Valentino Rossi VR|46 hat, among other items. A big “thank you” to everyone that came out to watch Fastest with us, and for helping raise so much money for one of motorcycling’s great charities. Hopefully we can do it again soon (more on that to come).

Photo: Glen Coddington