Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Vintage Done Right, The Fantic Caballero 500

11/14/2016 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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You probably haven’t heard of Fantic Motorcycles, but you won’t want to miss the company’s two new 500cc models, which are tastefully done heritage models.

Bringing Italian sexiness to a segment dominated with an American aesthetic, the Fantic Caballero 500 street tracker and scrambler bikes are remarkable examples of purposeful and elegant machines.

Based around a 449cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine that makes 43hp, the Fantic Caballero 500 scrambler comes with a 19″ front wheel and 17″ rear wheel, whereas the street tracker model comes with 19″ hoops fore and aft.

The Energica Esse Esse 9 Concept Cannot Be Unseen

11/08/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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When it comes to the technology that Energica uses to make its electric motorcycles, we can sing only strong praises. The Italian firm has one of the best electric motorcycle packages on the market.

However when it comes to more subjective matters, like the styling of their machines, we find Energica’s designs to be challenging to enjoy, if not sometimes impalpable.

The Energica Ego superbike and the Eva streetfighter are not the most beautiful machines we have ever seen, though their designs do grow on you over time.

We don’t think we will be making the same concessions about the Energica Esse Esse 9 concept though, which debuted at EICMA today.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.

Triumph Street Scrambler – Refined Heritage from the UK

11/08/2016 @ 12:35 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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We’re only a handful of hours into the 2016 EICMA show, and already we can tell you that The post-authentic game is still strong in the motorcycle industry. Helping fuel that trend is Triumph Motorcycles, which has been slowly updating its heritage lineup.

At EICMA, we see the last vestige of Triumph’s heritage line getting a refresh, with the 2017 Triumph Street Scrambler debuting with a bevy of enhancements.

Most notable is the dedicated Scrambler chassis, which houses the same 900cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that is found in the current Triumph Bonneville. This acclaimed power plant comes mated to a smooth-actuating five-speed gearbox.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – Got Roost?

11/07/2016 @ 9:53 am, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

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As expected for EICMA, Ducati has two new models to add to its Scrambler sub-brand, the first being the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled – a long-suspension Scrambler model with some added off-road chops.

The name is of note, giving a nod to the scrambler-style street bikes that competed in events like the iconic LA-Barstow-Vegas races several decades ago.

Picking up on that vintaged past, Ducati has unsurprisingly created its own modern riff on the dirt sled style, and produced a proper scrambler at the same time.

Now with five models in its Scrambler lineup, Ducati finally has a machine that is ready to get its feet properly dirty. We expect this bike to be a big hit with a wide gamut of riders who are looking for back-to-basics dual-sport machines.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Teased for EICMA Debut

10/18/2016 @ 11:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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We know from filings with the California Air Resources Board that we should expect two new Scrambler models for the 2017 model year – a “DS” model and a “CR” model.

With photos of a long-travel suspension Scrambler circulating, we assumed that the “DS” designation stood for “dual-sport”, but the latest teaser video from Ducati corrects our almost-right assumption.

While Ducati will indeed launch a more off-roady Scrambler model, as we expected, the 803cc machine will be called the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, an homage to the Baja-busting bikes of yore that carried the same name.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #34 – Doohickey

09/27/2016 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Episode 34 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast starts off by using the two new Ducati Scrambler models, which were spotted in CARB filings earlier this month, as a jumping off point to talk about how motorcycle manufacturers are chasing the post-authentic biker movement.

We then opine a bit about the apparent decline in the number of scrambler and café racer builds we are seeing in the custom motorcycle scene right now, and how we think that superbikes from the 1980s could be the next platform of choice for bike builders.

This takes the show into a discussion about the rise of electronics, and how they not only affect the motorcycle hobbyist, but also custom motorcycle builders. We then finish up the show with a listener question that asks about for selling advice on a heavily customized Japanese motorcycle.

There might be a revolving KLR joke in there as well…all in all, it’s another classic Two Enthusiasts Podcast show.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #29 – Motocyclisme

08/22/2016 @ 10:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Your weekly two-wheeled podcast addiction continues with Episode 29 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast. This installment sees Quentin and I discussing about the recent lawsuit against Skully, which alleges a number of pricey corporate perks, on the helmet startup’s company dime.

We also discuss some racing news: the sacking of Romano Fenati and the prospect of team communications with riders in MotoGP. We also discuss the settlement reached by the EPA and Harley-Davidson, over the use of engine tuning devices, and what that can mean for the industry as a whole.

Lastly, Quentin tells us a tale about getting back on an air-cooled Ducati, and camping in Eastern Oregon, while I give a glimpse into my review of the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, as I was in Julian, California riding the scrambler at the US press launch. It’s another great show for our Two Enthusiasts fans.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

Another Ducati Scrambler Is Coming

08/22/2016 @ 1:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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The Scrambler Ducati models started out as a bid to capture the budding crop of millennial riders, who eschew from the current crop of values and segments that prop-up the motorcycle industry.

The Scrambler has become more for Ducati though, as it has given the Italian brand two things: 1) a pathway to sell more classic and affordable motorcycles, and 2) a pathway from being a pure on-street brand. This makes the Scrambler line very important to Bologna.

For the past few months now, we have been hearing about the next model(s) to come for the Scrambler Ducati line (you can hear more about it on this episode of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, by the way), and now we are seeing our first glimpse of those machines.

Recent spy shots have been circling the internet this week, and they give us our best glimpse of what to expect from Ducati at the upcoming motorcycle trade shows.

I’m talking about the “Scrambler 1100 Enduro” – as the press is calling it – which will slot in above the Ducati Scrambler “800” bike, and offer more off-road prowess to the Scrambler name.

Gone Riding: Yamaha SCR950

08/18/2016 @ 8:01 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

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Hello from Julian, California which is just a stone’s throw away from Southern California’s Palomar Mountain State Park – a local riding Mecca. I’m out here today with Yamaha USA, riding the Yamaha SCR950 – the Japanese company’s “Made for the USA” scrambler model.

The SCR950 is part of Yamaha’s “Sport Heritage” line, and joins bikes like the XSR900 café racer and Yamaha Bolt C-Spec. That latter model is important, as the Yamaha SCR950 is built off the Bolt platform, adding a number of scrambler-styled design cues to the affordable cruiser model.

It’s worth noting that the SCR950 is the first model by Yamaha that has been developed here in the USA, rather than in Japan. As such, its focus is obviously on the American market. Strangely though, its most comparable competitors are all European.

This is becoming a trend for Yamaha, as we saw with the Yamaha FZ-09 and Yamaha FZ-10. The brand from Iwata is making great strides to set itself apart from the other Japanese companies.

We’ve got a full day’s worth of riding to find out. While I’m out on the road, I will try and give you a live assessment of the machine, and answer any questions you might have. So, here’s your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the 2017 Yamaha SCR950, before even my own proper review is posted.

Cellphone reception is pretty spotty here in the mountains, but we’ve got pretty good wifi at the hotel, so I will attempt to answer any questions you post here in the comments and on social media.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in North Carolina. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #SCR950 #SCR950FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.