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.

Yamaha YZF-R15 Gets Updated with Variable Valves

03/31/2017 @ 1:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

What you see here is the very unassuming 2017 Yamaha YZF-R15, a 155cc single-cylinder sport bike that was designed with the Asian market in mind – as such, the bike will debut in Indonesia in April 2017, and the rest of the ASEAN market later this year.

Hold on before you click through though, as while the R15 might be too small by our Western market standards, the new Yamaha YZF-R15 packs some interesting technology, namely Yamaha’s variable valve actuation (VVA).

Because of this technology, Yamaha says that the 2017 model of the YZF-R15 achieves a 18% increase in power output (19hp in total), and a 4.7% increase in fuel efficiency, all from its 3% engine displacement increase and with the VVA technology.

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Honda CBR250RR, Reporting for Racing Duty

03/20/2017 @ 9:38 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Honda is taking the quarter-liter market very seriously. The debut of the Honda CBR250RR street bike proves as much, with Big Red doubling-down on the segment, just three years after the debut of the Honda CBR300R.

The small-displacement category hasn’t converged on a single-displacement yet, with anything from 250cc to 400cc seemingly filling the gap, all of which makes the Honda CBR250RR an even bolder choice from the Japanese manufacturer, as it’s on the smaller end of the spectrum.

We have yet to see the Honda CBR250RR come to the western markets, but in Asia, HRC is getting ready to go racing with its 250cc twin-cylinder platform. As such, the above is the Honda CBR250RR, in its Astra Honda Racing trim, which debuted this weekend at the Osaka Motorcycle Show.

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Why the Honda Rebel Is The Hot New Bike for 2017

11/24/2016 @ 1:32 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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The following is our second taste of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. This article focuses on a current and critical event that happened in the industry, which is something A&R Pro content will focus on. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

New bike season is just about over, now that INTERMOT, EICMA, AIMExpo, and IMS Long Beach trade shows are behind us.

We could still see some new models and concepts debut later this year in Japan, and there is always the possibility of something interesting showing up at the IMS New York show, but those are less popular venues for new bike releases.

In that case then, we can start making some conjecture about the bikes that debuted this year, many of them for the 2017 model year. Let’s start with the best of the best — I am of course talking about the new Honda Rebel models. No? Not the bike you were expecting?

Sure, these unassuming 300cc and 500cc street bikes don’t have the same sex appeal as some of the more wild machines we saw in Germany and Italy, but make no mistake, the revamped Honda Rebel is the most important new bike we have seen debut this year. Let me explain.

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BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

11/23/2016 @ 10:55 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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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?

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New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

11/17/2016 @ 8:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

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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.

Available starting in April 2017, tentative pricing for the Honda Rebel 300 is set at $4,399, while the Honda Rebel 500 is priced tentatively at $5,999, both sans ABS, though ABS models will be available as well.

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KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

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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.

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The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Is Finally a Production Model

11/08/2016 @ 7:48 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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We have known for quite some time that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut at the 2016 EICMA show, with the Swedish brand teasing us with the pre-production model at last year’s gathering in Milan.

Since that time, we have seen numerous confirmations that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut as a production model in 2017, and today we can finally tick off the box on that launch.

Based on the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 (Swedish for white arrow) takes a drastically different tack from its orange-clad sibling, as you can readily see.

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2017 BMW G310GS Debuts with 300cc of ADV

11/08/2016 @ 3:44 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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One of the four new motorcycles we were expecting to see from BMW at the 2016 EICMA show, the BMW G310GS adds a small-displacement model to the German brand’s already iconic adventure-touring line.

Based off the BMW G310R street bike, the 313cc single-cylinder platform has been reworked for dual-sport riding, offering not only a smaller ADV machine for adventure enthusiasts, but also an entry point into the BMW brand via one of its best-selling segments.

As such, the GS model gains some suspension travel (1.6″ in the front, 2″ in the rear) over its street bike sibling, the styling is obviously a nod towards the rest of the GS line, namely the best-selling R1200GS, and the ergonomics have been reworked for adventure-style riding.

Power is rated at just under 34hp, with a curb weight of 374 lbs.

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Honda CRF250L Rally Finally Debuts

11/07/2016 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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We have been waiting for the Honda CRF250L Rally to debut for a long time now.

It has been 20 months since Big Red first showed us the Honda CRF250 Rally concept in Japan, and today in at the EICMA show Italy, the 2017 Honda CRF250L Rally finally broke cover.

The idea behind the Dakar-inspired machine is pretty simple. Take the venerable Honda CRF250L platform, and add pieces to make it mimic the design for the Honda CRF450 Rally race bike.

The result is a lightweight adventure bike that appeases those riders who feel ADV machines are to big and heavy.

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