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.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Trackside Tuesday: Motorcycle Racing’s Pound of Flesh

06/03/2014 @ 11:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing is a dangerous endeavor, something we have been reminded of heavily in the past few weeks. Losing Simon Andrews in the North West 200, as well as Bob Price and Karl Harris at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, the usual debates have once again surfaced, namely that motorcycle road racing should be abolished because of the toll of dangers, injuries, and fatalities it demands.

Despite death’s inevitability, the Isle of Man TT is a spectacular event, just ask anyone who has sat on a Manx hedgerow and watched these two-wheeled gladiators race past. The speeds on city streets are astounding, the atmosphere in the paddock is warm and friendly, and the Isle of Man itself is a picturesque locale that could come from some child’s storybook.

Modern media does a great job of translating the first-hand experience of the Isle of Man TT into an approachable hour-long TV format, but it still falls short of the genuine article.

Through a television set, you can’t breathe the fumes of unbridled horsepower from the racing machines, you can’t see past the riders’ determination through their helmet visors, and you don’t witness the hours of determined work, sweat, and sacrifce that occur in the paddock to get a racer to the starting line.

I would challenge any person, motorcycle enthusiast or not, to lay witness to a TT fortnight, and still walk away unimpressed with the spectacle that they have laid witness to — there is simply nothing else like it on Earth. It’s almost spiritual.

But why is it though? Scratch the surface a little deeper on the idea why the TT is so special, and you arrive at the notion that the Manx road race holds our wonderment in captivity because of how far outside the standard deviation of safety it operates — even under the skewed perspective of risk management that occurs in motorsport — and that forces us to take some major stock in our own mortality.

Simon Andrews Has Died After a Horrible NW200 Crash

05/19/2014 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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It’s with sad news that we begin this Monday’s coverage, as we regret to report that popular road racer Simon Andrews has succumb to the head injuries he sustained in a crash during the North West 200.

Andrews was racing with the Penz13.com BMW team on Saturday, when he had a horrific crash during the NW200 Superstock race. The crash occurred during the fourth lap of the race, near the Metropole corner in Portrush.

Airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, reports on Andrews’ condition seemed to improve on Sunday, as the 29-year-old had been taken off life support and was breathing on his own, but Andrews unfortunately passed away this morning from his injuries.

TT Legends — Episode 7: The Oschersleben 8hr

02/26/2014 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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We don’t know about you, but the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary is really giving us a reason to look forward to Wednesday. In fact it might even be the most popular event at the A&R office since No-Pants Fridays. Sadly, Episode Seven is the penultimate installment, but all good things must come to an end, right?

Today’s video takes us to Germany, for the Oschersleben 8hr. Perhaps not the biggest event on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it was a decisive round for the Honda TT Legends squad for the 2012 EWC title. As usually, it’s a great look into this top-level team, and your favorite TT heroes have more than enough personality to keep you entertained.

TT Legends — Episode 6: The Suzuka 8 Hours

02/19/2014 @ 1:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Episode Six of the “TT Legends” documentary is out, and it has the Honda TT Legends crew leaving the Isle of Man for Japan. Taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, one of the stops in the Endurance World Championship, the Honda-supported team is racing for the OEM’s glory.

Perhaps not the biggest of races here in the United States or in Europe, but for the Japanese, Suzuka is a huge deal. A place where bragging rights for the Japanese OEMs are born, in the past it hasn’t been uncommon to see OEMs stack their teams with WSBK and GP racers (even Kevin Schwantz raced at Suzuka last year).

Eight hours of racing anywhere is brutal, but at Suzuka, the intense heat and humidity is always an additional factor. Riders cool down in swimming pools, and drink their weight in Gatorade. A truly fantastic event, it should be on any enthusiasts’ bucket list — just be sure to pack a pair of shorts.

TT Legends — Episode 5: The Isle of Man TT, Part 2

02/12/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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It’s Wednesday, so that means another installment of the “TT Legends” documentary. For Episode Five, we find the boys still at the Isle of Man TT, the namesake for the Honda TT Legends team.

2012 was a particularly eventful year for the TT, as Simon Andrews escaped with his life in a harrowing crash, the Senior TT was cancelled, for the first time ever on account of rain, and John McGuinness finally won a Superstock TT race.

As usual, the episode is a great watch, and this time around things focus pretty heavily on John McGuinness (we even get a glimpse of him on his electric superbike, the Mugen Shinden).

With 20 TT wins to his name now, McPint will be looking to make further progress on Joey Dunlop’s record during the 2014 outing. Standing in his way will be a bevy of powerhouse riders, including the recently announced Michael Dunlop, who will be racing with a factory-backed BMW S1000RR.

Simon Andrews to Ride for Penz13.com at IOMTT

02/06/2014 @ 2:37 pm, by Bryan Delohery1 COMMENT

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After sustaining injuries in the FIM World Endurance round at Le Mans last year, Simon Andrews is returning to racing for the 2014 Isle of Man TT in Rico Penzkofer’s paddock. The 29-year-old will be riding a BMW HP4 prepared by the Penz13.com BMW racing team, not only in the TT, but also the Macau Grand Prix and the North West 200.

During his TT debut in 2011, Andrews made it clear he was a serious competitor taking 11th in the Superstock and Senior races while setting a lap record of 125.134 mph, making him the third fastest newcomer of all time.

Add to that a fastest lap time of 126.001 around the TT Mountain Course, and you can start to see why his TT career includes four Top 15 finishes, along with a podium finish in the 2012 Macau Grand Prix where he took third.

TT Legends — Episode 4: The Isle of Man TT, Part 1

02/05/2014 @ 6:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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We are now halfway through with the “TT Legends” documentary, with today’s fourth of eight installments featuring the venerable Isle of Man TT. Part one of two, Episode Four introduces one of the most iconic races in motorcycling.

Over 100 years old, every motorcycle enthusiast should make a pilgrimage to the Isle of Man — the only downside is that once you go, you will want to go again, and again, and again…

Raced on city streets, with speeds hitting over 200 mph down the Sulby Straight, it is easy to see why Honda Pro Racing’s factory road racing and endurance squad borrows its name from the TT.

Featuring some of the best IOMTT riders on its team, to keep things honest, the Isle of Man TT is really where the Honda TT Legends team shines. Enjoy!

TT Legends — Episode 3: The North West 200

01/29/2014 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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We are back on track with the eight-part “TT Legends” documentary, which follows the racing shenanigans of the Honda TT Legends road and endurance racing squad. After finishing with the Bol d’Or endurance race in Episode Two, Episode Three finds the Honda riders at the North West 200, one of the great Irish road racing events.

Like the Isle of Man TT, the North West 200 is held on public roads, but unlike the TT, this is not a time trial format. Instead, NW200 riders leave the starting line together, and swap paint and positions throughout the course. One of the fastest road races, riders reach well over 200 mph on their machines at the Irish road race.

TT Legends — Episode 2: The Bol d’Or 24 Hour Race

01/27/2014 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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We are a little late in bringing you this, the second installment, of the “TT Legends” documentary about the Honda TT Legends road racing and endurance team, so apologies for that.  But, we think you will enjoy this 22 minute reprieve from the non-two wheeled world, as like the first episode, this is a great look into one of the top teams in racing.

Focusing on the 2012 Bol d’Or 24 hour race at Magny-Cours, perhaps the most prestigious event on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, episode two should be a treat for any road racing fan. Le Mans starts, rain, French fans, and Mr. McPint — there is a little something for everyone in this episode.

TT Legends — Episode 1: Meet the TT Legends Team

01/15/2014 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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As we said last week, “TT Legends” the made-for-TV documentary about Honda’s road racing and world endurance racing is coming to YouTube, and the show’s first episode is up for your viewing pleasure. The video introduces the Honda TT Legends team, and has some great footage over its 22 minute duration.

Best of all, the personalities of John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, and Cameron Donald really shine through. For the next seven weeks, we should have some treats for you as we go through the series’ eight episodes. Grab a beverage, and enjoy!