Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Kawasaki Working on a 250cc Four-Cylinder?

06/24/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Kawasaki Working on a 250cc Four Cylinder? four cylinder kawasaki indonesia 635x453

According to the Indonesian publication TMC Blog, Kawasaki is working on a performance-oriented 250cc four-cylinder…and they have the supposed photos to prove it. The news should be well-received by those who remember the high-revving small-displacement Japanese machines of just a few decades ago.

Southeast Asian markets, like Indonesia’s, are driven by graduated taxes on motorcycle displacement. For the Indonesian market, machines 250cc to 500cc in displacement receive a 60% tax rate, while machine over 500cc are taxed at 75%. Unsurprisingly then, bikes under 250cc are accounting for the lion’s share of motorcycle sales.

Working against that taxation plan is the growing middle class in these regions, with consumers able to purchase more expensive motorbikes, and looking for more performance in the process. This trend is what helped bring the Yamaha R25 to market (and production) in Indonesia, along with the slew of other ~250cc machines we’ve seen from Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM.

Yet Another Solid Photo of the Yamaha YZF-R25

04/30/2014 @ 5:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Yet Another Solid Photo of the Yamaha YZF R25 yamaha yzf r25

Unfortunately, the Yamaha YZF-R25 isn’t slated to debut until May 2014; but as luck would have it, the month of May starts tomorrow. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the R25 is leaking like a sieve all over the internet.

We brought you some very nice photos of Yamaha’s 250cc sport bike earlier this morning, and now we have another good glimpse of the Yamaha R25 from the front.

In this shot we get a good glimpse of the YZF-R25′s headlight, which reminds us of the redesign Honda did to the CBR600RR. Clearly visible on the side fairing is the “R25″ logo, so we know we are dealing with the real thing. Unfortunately though, the photo is pretty low-resolution, so it’s hard to gauge fit and finish.

Yamaha Tricity – A Three-Wheel Leaning Scooter with CVT

03/25/2014 @ 9:06 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Yamaha Tricity   A Three Wheel Leaning Scooter with CVT Yamaha Tricity LMW scooter 06 635x475

Yamaha is trickling out its Thailand-built models, and while we wait for the debut of the Yamaha YZF-R25 250cc sport bike, the tuning fork brand has an interesting new scooter for the world market: the Yamaha Tricity.

A three-wheeled leaning scooter, the Yamaha Tricity features a 125cc motor with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Designed to sell primarily in Thailand, the Tricity is a fairly premium and feature-packed scooter for that market, and Yamaha hopes to sell over 10,000 of them in Southeast Asia, Japan, and Europe.

Triumph Expands Its Lineup in India – Hopes to Sell 1,000 “Super-Premium” Motorcycles in 2014

02/07/2014 @ 11:37 am, by Aakash Desai1 COMMENT

Triumph Expands Its Lineup in India   Hopes to Sell 1,000 Super Premium Motorcycles in 2014 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC SE 04 635x578

As the West gradually loses its grip on world economic and political power, it’s only natural that global industries refocus their efforts to market and develop products for the new guards of the economic order.

As this decade nears middle age, we are seeing more and more motorcycle companies seeking a foothold in South Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian markets.

The reasons are simple: larger, more populous markets with higher percentages of prospective riders that are rapidly gaining economic and social standing means more people to sell to.

Thus as two-wheelers become more of a commodity of choice as well as commodity of necessity, it opens up opportunities for heretofore unattainable brands to begin marketing to newly affluent demographics.

Kawasaki to Release a Single-Cylinder 250cc Sport Bike?

01/06/2014 @ 11:33 am, by Bryan Delohery4 COMMENTS

Kawasaki to Release a Single Cylinder 250cc Sport Bike? kawasaki 250cc single cylinder

According to TMCBlog (more photos on their site), Kawasaki may be planning to release a new entry level sport bike as a cost effective option for the Southeast Asian market. Rumor has it that this 250cc, single-cylinder bike is under construction and would be the more economical cousin to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and its parallel-twin engine, while providing more competition for the Honda CBR250R.

While none of this can be confirmed, for time being it is a safe bet that if Kawasaki wants to remain competitive in its Asian markets, and it would be a good business strategy for Kawasaki to produce a bike that is comparable to many of the other single-cylinder bikes in the region, which are being produced by Honda, Suzuki, and KTM.

Triumph Distributor Confirms 250cc Model for Asia

01/08/2013 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Triumph Distributor Confirms 250cc Model for Asia Triumph 250cc sketch

Shedding more insight on our previous news that Triumph is working on a small-displacement model for India and Southeast Asia, we now get more details on the project from the British company’s distributor in Indonesia, Rudhy Siswanto of PT Global Motorcycle Trading.

Expected to be a 250cc twin-cylinder machine that will play heavily on the styling cues of the Triumph Street Triple, the new model will begin production in 2014 at Triumph’s planned new plant in Narasapur, India, and go head-to-head with the KTM 200 Duke.

The Killing Season – A Motorbike Trip Through Vietnam

01/01/2013 @ 9:29 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The Killing Season    A Motorbike Trip Through Vietnam the killing season 635x356

Congratulations and welcome to 2013. We imagine that there are a few of you who aren’t firing on all your cylinders yet today, so we will ease you into a new year of motorcycle news with a nice little video, which was made by the folks at Skateboarder Magazine. No, your hangover is not making you see things, we are in fact talking about skateboarding on a motorcycle site.

You see, there is an interesting intersection between the skateboarding and motorcycle subcultures — something about the desire to go one’s own way, to engage in some activity of questionable safety, and to enjoy life in the present, much to the chagrin of everyone else. The crossover may no be as obvious in practice, but it’s there.

For instance, when Harley-Davidson finally figured out that it needed to start appealing to consumers under the age of 40, the first demographic it targeted (with some success) was the skateboarding crowd. Take a look at some of the earlier Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight ads, and see if you can’t pick up on the LBC living, Airwalk wearing, grinder vibe that’s going on there.

So as we already said, for your viewing pleasure today we have a nicely done video by the folks at Skateboarder Magazine, which covers their motley crew riding and skating through Vietnam. The whole piece is a great example of what it is like to travel in Southeast Asia, and puts a lot in perspective as to just how massive the market is there. The traffic is a bit insane as well, especially for these novice riders.

Harley-Davidson Made-for-India Model by 2014?

12/18/2012 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Made for India Model by 2014? harley davidson india paint 635x450

According to the folks at Indian auto site Zigwheels, Harley-Davidson is finally ready to get serious about the Indian market, and plans on developing and selling a made-for-India model. The entry-level machine would slot in below the current 883cc Sportsters, and be ground-up manufactured locally in India as well.

Zigwheels goes on to say that its sources peg Harley-Davidson executives from the US and India as meeting with Indian vendors and dealers in order to setup distribution of the new model(s). Expected to debut at the 2014 New Delhi show, the India-specific line will arrive in the 400cc-500cc range, feature a v-twin motor, and cost Rs 3.5 lakh ($6,381).

MotoGP: Two Rounds in Malaysia?

12/05/2012 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

MotoGP: Two Rounds in Malaysia? Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Racing 635x423

According to MCN, Yamaha Racing’s Lin Jarvis is keen for more rounds in the Asian market — he is so keen in fact, that Jarvis has even suggested that s second round be held in Malaysia. With southeast asia proving to be an important market for the big motorcycle OEMs, the idea of doubling up on Malaysia for the MotoGP calendar is certainly not the worst idea ever proposed to Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta.

For Yamaha Racing in particular, a second round in the southeast asian territory would dovetail nicely with the team’s already extensive connection to the region’s markets. While everyone in the paddock would seem to be in agreement on MotoGP’s needs to get out of Europe and into other markets, Jarvis’s request to Ezpeleta is still a tall order, as it is a tough proposition for the MotoGP Championship to double-dip not only a small country, but also the same venue.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

No Sub 800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley Davidson Doesnt Understand Emerging Markets Harley Davidson board racer

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.