Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Solidarity.

03/17/2011 @ 4:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: A Man with a Million Things to Ponder

03/14/2011 @ 3:57 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Jorge Lorenzo has his hands full in 2011. With his stylized JL #1 replacing last year’s 99 on his Yamaha M1, Lorenzo wants to keep up the momentum with which he swept the 2010 season. But as the official tests have made clear, repeating in the style of the man he both dislikes, and wants to be, will be prove a difficult task indeed. After the first night of the final test in Qatar, Lorenzo managed the fifth best time, four tenths behind Dani Pedrosa, and nearly three tenths behind the man everyone fears, Casey Stoner.

Stoner only put in 20 hot laps (32 total) and managed second on the time sheet. Lorenzo did 60 total laps, but had one impressive series of low 1:57s and high 1:56s after another. That consistency just may be the key to fending off the competition over the long haul if he can make 2011 as mistake-free as 2010. The lone star on JL’s new 1 logo is eerily reminiscent of his teammate, Texan Ben Spies, who managed to creep ahead of Lorenzo to demote the Spaniard to 5th on the evening. There is no shortage of riders who are likely to make Lorenzo’s amazing season in 2010 very tough to replicate.

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Photo of the Week: Sunday Night Lights

03/07/2011 @ 12:30 pm, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

With the MotoGP season about to begin, all eyes are on Rossi and what he and Jeremy Burgess have been able to accomplish with the Ducati GP11. Will Valentino be thinking of his glory days under the lights on his beloved Yamaha M1? This image, from 2009, shows Valentino in peak form as he began his final championship season with Yamaha. Though Casey Stoner won by almost eight seconds, Rossi began his title chase with a strong second in the first ever Monday night race after a rare desert rain storm ruined the Sunday night schedule.

In this photo Rossi’s bike wears the Forza Abruzzo logo on its tail section, representing Rossi’s contribution to the relief effort to help L’Aquila recover from a devastating earthquake that struck the city on April 6th, 2009. Of all the bikes braking for Turn 1 after Losail’s long front straight, Rossi’s showed the brightest brake discs, glowing hot like fire in the desert.

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Photo of the Week: Ducati Meccanica

02/28/2011 @ 10:34 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

As the Ducati Cup, also know as World Superbike, enters the 2011 season, the grid looks odd without a presence many have taken for granted for several decades, a factory Ducati team. While Ducati does have Valentino Rossi on its prototype GP11 this year, the Xerox WSBK team is no more, leaving others to defend Ducati’s honor in the series. This weekend at Philip Island, Carlos Checa rode his Althea Ducati to pole and a double victory, dominating the weekend. Though the Bologna factory may not be present as an official team entry, Ducati’s racing heritage appears well represented in World Superbike for 2011.

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Caption This Photo: The Secret Origin of the Funky Chicken

02/23/2011 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Five Star Rating

02/21/2011 @ 8:54 am, by Scott Jones7 COMMENTS

2010 World Superbike Champion Max Biaggi will be adding a fifth star to his leathers in 2011, the existing four representing his previous world titles. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, four of his five titles have been on Aprilia machines, the first four being consecutive 250cc GP Championships between 1994 and 1997.

Max has re-signed with Aprilia for another two years and will begin his title defense next weekend when the WSBK season kicks off at Philip Island. The above photo is from the Miller Motorsports Park round in 2010, where Max won twice after Carlos Checa’s Ducati quit while in comfortable leads in both races.

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Photo of the Week: Trail Braking

02/14/2011 @ 9:05 am, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

Taking over Valentino Rossi’s factory Yamaha seat, multiple AMA Superbike Champion, 2010 WSBK Champion, and 2011 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies will have the same equipment as reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Given how well Spies did on the satellite Tech3 Yamaha in 2010, the factory bike and a year of experience could mean the difference between being the “Best of the Rest” and the “Big Four” becoming the Big Five.

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Photo of the Week: Game Face

02/07/2011 @ 7:57 am, by Scott JonesComments Off on Photo of the Week: Game Face

With the 2011 MotoGP season right around the corner, there are several big questions waiting to be answered. The biggest is how Valentino Rossi will manage with the Ducati GP11. Last year Rossi won the season opener at Losail after Stoner crashed out of the lead, and was pleased to have what would become his final year with Yamaha off to a good start.

But his broken leg at Mugello put him out of the Championship running as rival Jorge Lorenzo rode the bike Rossi had developed to the title. Rossi’s challenge in 2011 is formidable if he is going to reclaim the premiere class championship, and go down in the record books as having done so with three different factories. He has a lot to think about before the lights come on in Qatar.

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For Hire.

02/02/2011 @ 8:06 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: In Wheelies We Trust

01/31/2011 @ 12:37 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

MotoGP isn’t the only season about to get under way, and 2010 AMA Superbike champ Josh Hayes will trade his #4 for a #1 on his Graves Yamaha, as he sets out to defend the first title not owned by a Suzuki in…well, nearly too long to count after the dominance of Spies and Mladin.

Hayes was the fastest superbike at the recent weather-plagued tire test at Daytona, but he is likely to face some good competition in 2011, from a slew of experienced Suzuki riders, including Tommy Hayden, Blake Young, Ben Bostrom, Roger Hayden, Chris Ulrich, and 600cc star Martin Cardenas. Add to the suspense veteran Larry Pegram on a BMW instead of his Ducati, and Eric Bostrom on a Kawasaki, and there should be plenty to watch here at home in the AMA.

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