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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

KTM 390 Duke Also Confirmed for the USA

11/13/2014 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

KTM 390 Duke Also Confirmed for the USA KTM RC390 01 635x379

In addition the KTM RC390, KTM USA has also seen fit to bring the KTM 390 Duke to American soil for the 2015 model year. The absence of the small-displacement street bike on KTM USA’s lineup for the past two year has been a curious one, as the 375cc naked bike has been selling quite well in other markets.

Whatever reasons KTM USA might have for delaying the arrival of the KTM 390 Duke to the United States, the good news is that American riders will have it as an option starting next year. Pricing is set at $4,999, and includes Brembo brakes and WP suspension.

KTM RC390 Coming to America – $5,499

11/13/2014 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

KTM RC390 Coming to America   $5,499 2014 KTM RC390 white 03 635x400

Good news small-displacement sport bike fans, as KTM North America has finally confirmed the KTM RC390 for the American market. The 375cc four-stroke single-cylinder street bike is good for 44hp, and tips the scales at 325 lbs dry.

On the larger side, displacement-wise, compared to the Honda CBR300R, Kawasaki Ninja 300, and Yamaha YZF-R3, the KTM RC390 also packs a bit more on the price tag. Pricing will be $5,499 MSRP, in the United States.

Benelli BN251 – Return of the Small-Displacement Italian

11/03/2014 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Benelli BN251   Return of the Small Displacement Italian  Benelli BN251 635x436

Brands like Ducati, Vespa, and Benelli can trace their roots back to post-WWII Italy, where infrastructure and roads were shattered, and the country desperately needed a cheap, reliable, and effective way to navigate from Point-A to Point-B.

Enter the rise of the motorcycle to meet those needs; and from that, what has become over half a century of motorcycle culture in Italy. The first Italian motorcycles were really just bicycles with motors, and as more proper machines came into being, they were still tiny in displacement.

Therefore, the quintessential Italian motorcycle was what we would call today a small-displacement bike. Benelli is getting back to those roots now, introducing the Benelli BN251 at this year’s EICMA show.

Up-Close with the Yamaha YZF-R3

10/18/2014 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Up Close with the Yamaha YZF R3 2015 Yamaha YZF R3 up close 8 635x421

This week we not only go a chance to see the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 unveiled at the AIMExpo, but also we had the chance to see the R3 up-close in the flesh. The budget-minded sport bike shows the obvious signs of more cost-effecient construction and fitted components, yet retains the fit-and-finish you would expect from a Yamaha motorcycle.

This makes the R3 a prime candidate for aspirational riders, who want an affordable first motorcycle that looks the part of a proper sport bike. Track enthusiasts and veteran riders though will be disappointed with the Yamaha YZF-R3’s non-adjustable KYB suspension, box swingarm design, and bulky chassis — this is still a 368lbs (wet) motorcycle.

Yamaha YZF-R3 Revealed – 321cc Twin Coming to the USA

10/16/2014 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Yamaha YZF R3 Revealed   321cc Twin Coming to the USA 2015 Yamaha YZF R3 1 635x423

The rumors were true, Yamaha is bringing a special small-displacement model to market, the Yamaha YZF-R3. As the name indicates, the new R3 gets a fuel-injected displacement bump over the R25, to the tune of 321cc. Debuted at the AIMExpo today, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is coming to the USA, with a price tag of $4,990.

Said by Yamaha to have “class-leading power”, the new R3 finally adds a small-displacement sport bike to Yamaha’s North American lineup, and makes an attractive offering when compared to the other 250cc/300cc machines from the other Japanese manufacturers. Expect to see it in Yamaha dealers, starting January 2014.

2015 Suzuki GW250F — A Fully-Faired 250cc for the USA

10/02/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

2015 Suzuki GW250F    A Fully Faired 250cc for the USA 2015 Suzuki GW250F 1 635x423

Suzuki has finally brought a full-faired small-displacement machine to the US market, announcing today the 2015 Suzuki GW250F. As the name implies, the Suzuki GW250F is really just the GW250, with full-fairing bodywork.

The move is perhaps the mother of necessity, as Suzuki doesn’t have a proper motorbike to go head-to-head with the Kawasaki Ninja 300, Honda CBR300R, or Yamaha YZF-R25.

With the small-displacement war well underway in the United States, Suzuki Motor America surely felt that something beyond just the Suzuki GW250 was needed, and hence the GW250F was born.

Honda Grom + Ducati Monster = Gromcati

07/30/2014 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Honda Grom + Ducati Monster = Gromcati Gromcati Ducati Monster Honda Grom X Speed Motorland 02 635x476

Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has made it pretty clear that he has no plans to take Ducati into the realm of small-displacement motorcycles, and he has flat-out squashed the chances Ducati making a scooter.

This could make thigns difficult for the Italian brand, especially as the hot regions for growth in the motorcycle industry are teeming with machines under 500cc in engine displacement — markets like Southeast Asia, India, China, and the countries of South America.

So what are Ducati fans in these countries to do? Well, where there is a will, there is a way…and for some Thai riders, that will manifests itself in a big way. Taking one perfectly good Honda Grom monkey bike, add in some impressively downsized Ducati Monster bodywork, and well…we introduce to you the Gromcati.

Here’s the Honda CB300F & Yes, It’s Coming to America

07/10/2014 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

Heres the Honda CB300F & Yes, Its Coming to America 2015 honda cb300f 635x423

We first caught wind of the 2015 Honda CB300F back in March, and at the time we didn’t expect to see the naked small-displacement machine until the autumn trade shows. Well, Honda has proven itself full of surprises, because not only has Big Red debuted the Honda CB300F to the world, but American Honda has also confirmed the model for the United States.

Basically a Honda CBR300R without all of its fairings, the Honda CB300F offers a more upright sitting position, and a little bit less racer flair. At the heart of the CB300F is the same fuel-injected 286cc single-cylinder thumper, which has a longer 8mm stroke than the venerable Honda CBR250R, and thus accounts for its 37cc advantage in displacement.

Perhaps the best part about the 2015 Honda CB300F though is the price tag, which is downright affordable at $3,999 MSRP ($400 less than the CBR300R).

American Honda hasn’t locked down a delivery date for the USA, simply saying that the new model will be hitting Honda dealers in the fall of this year. From what we understand, that’s when you can expect to see the Honda CBR300R as well.

Official: 2015 Honda CBR300R Coming to America

06/03/2014 @ 2:01 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Official: 2015 Honda CBR300R Coming to America 2015 Honda CBR300R 01 635x453

As we expected, the Honda CBR300R will be coming to the North American market, as American Honda has confirmed today that the single-cylinder machine as a 2015 model.

Though available in August later this year, Americans shouldn’t feel too bad about the 286cc machine coming late to the US, as even European markets have had a delay on receiving the machine, which officially debuted for that market at EICMA last year.

Yamaha YZF-R25 Debuts in Indonesia

05/19/2014 @ 11:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Yamaha YZF R25 Debuts in Indonesia Yamaha YZF R25

The wait is finally over, as the Yamaha YZF-R25 has been revealed to the world, at a press launch in Indonesia. Based aroun a fuel-injected 249cc parallel-twin engine, which makes 35.5hp and 16.7 lbs•ft of torque, the YZF-R25 is Yamaha’s response to the newly revived 250cc sport bike category, which Honda and Kawasaki have been dominating, as of late.

Built in Indonesia, and being released into that market in July of this year, Yamaha sees 12,000 units being sold worldwide in the next 12 months for the R25 — a number we suspect will grow as more markets added.