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.

Fuller Moto’s Custom Motus MSTR Streetfighter

04/22/2017 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Motus MSTR is a burly beast of a bike. The American-made sport-tourer comes with ergonomics designed to eat up miles of riding, and its 1,650cc V4 engine helps make passing those miles a quite the spirited event.

We have always wondered what the Motous MSTR would be like as a streefighter though – sans the production bike’s sweeping fairings, and with a bit more ‘Merica in its attitude. Now we have a glimpse of that, with Fuller Moto giving the Motus MSTR some customizing love.

If you are a fan of Fuller Moto, then you should find his design on the MSTR both visually appealing and strikingly familiar. The color accents (red, white, and blue…obviously) start with the MSTR’s stock red-painted heads, though don’t stop there.

Just in case there was any question about the Motus / Fuller Moto collaboration being all show and no go, the bike puts some impressive 155+ horsepower figures down to the dyno drum, in the attached video.

If you happen to be in Austin for the MotoGP round, you can catch this Motus down at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.

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Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

01/03/2017 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings.

But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion.

When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well.

So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle (how’s that for alliteration?) – we think you will enjoy it.

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Ride Review: Yamaha FZ-10

08/02/2016 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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What makes a good streetfighter? In the past, the formula was simple: you would take a potent superbike, strip it of its fairings, and maybe attach a flat handlebar, shortened exhaust pipe, or some other distinctively “urban” modification. Boom. Dank wheelies.

Now, the formula isn’t quite as clear. Power is still a must, and a certain level of hooligan-cred helps, but the market has begun to ask for more from these “super naked” or “hypernaked” motorcycles.

Commuter and touring duties have entered the space, electronics have become standard, and a certain level of refinement is expected – such are the treacherous waters that the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 must navigate, all while hitting a budget-friendly price-point.

That is no easy list of criteria for a single motorcycle to juggle, but such is the nature of life, the universe, and everything. The FZ-10 fancies itself up to the task though, and Yamaha has high hopes for this streetfighter…err, super naked…or whatever you want to call it.

A such, Yamaha recently invited Asphalt & Rubber out to the Tennessee / North Carolina border, to ride over 150 miles (including The Tail of the Dragon) to see how the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 stacks up to the hype, and to the competition.

I came away impressed with this “retuned” Yamaha YZF-R1 for the street, though with some caveats. Keep reading, and I will explain further.

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Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

07/02/2016 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup.

We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes.

Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine.

First off, a clarification for those who aren’t acquainted with Ducati’s history with the Supersport line. The name is different from our normal usage of the term “supersport” and doesn’t imply that this motorcycle is Ducati’s answer for a 600cc racing machine.

Instead, the Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

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Burasca 1200 – Aldo Drudi’s Custom Honda VFR1200F

05/20/2016 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Honda VFR1200F isn’t exactly the most popular motorcycle in Honda’s two-wheeled lineup. This might be because the large and heavy sport-tourer shows Honda’s commitment to pushing the VFR brand farther away from its sport-tourer roots, much to the chagrin of VFR owners.

The package isn’t all bad though, it just doesn’t work for a bike billed as a sport-touring machine. The Honda VFR1200X is basically the same bike with longer suspension and different bodywork, and as an adventure-sport machine, it fits the bill quite nicely.

The chassis handles its 590-pound mass well, and the 1,27cc V4 engine has plenty of grunt , and this is what must have been what attracted Aldo Drudi to the machine for his first motorcycle concept.

Better known as the maker of various racer helmet designs, most notably Valentino Rossi’s (expect another Drudi custom helmet, later this weekend), Drudi and his team have dreamed up a VFR that couldn’t possibly exist in Honda’s conservative offerings. They call it the Burasca 1200.

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Motus Expands Its Dealership Network

04/25/2016 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Motus Motorcycles continues to grow its dealership presence, especially with the announcement that the American motorcycle outfit has added eight new dealerships to its dealer network.

That addition brings Motus’ total to 22 dealers in the United States with more on the way, the company says.

That’s good news for riders interested in a unique American-built motorcycle, especially those that are familiar with tinkering on push-rod muscle cars.

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Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles.

As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride.

With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

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Gone Riding: 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

03/17/2016 @ 12:52 am, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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Back on the road again, and this time I’m out in Arizona with Yamaha North America, riding the recently updated 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 sport-tourer.

Tomorrow sees our group leaving Phoenix and heading up into Sedona, where the red earth and picturesque mesas should make for an epic backdrop to our full day of riding.

For those who don’t know, the FJR1300 is a model that Yamaha has been slowly evolving each model year, instead of making punctuated improvements every few years. This makes it a surprising machine for press launch, but it also happens to be an important one for us to evaluate.

The sport-touring segment is surprisingly hot right now, with 17% growth in the past year, thanks mostly to the Yamaha FJ-09. There are some who think that the sport-touring market is dead, supplanted by the adventure-sport category, yet for some veteran riders, the ethos of the Yamaha FJR1300 is ideal.

The big news for the 2016 model year is the addition of a new six-speed gearbox, which should make highway speeds a bit more friendly. We will also be keen to tryout the suite of electronics on the base model FJR1300A, and experience the electronic suspension on the FJR1300ES, both of which were on the 2015 models, but are new to us.

As usual, I will attempt to answer questions regarding the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 from the road. We will have two days of riding on the machine, so that should be ample opportunity for A&R to get acquainted with this venerable sport-tourer, and give you the skinny on its qualities.

As before, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel that are here with me in Arizona. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #FJR1300 for the thoughts of our colleagues as well.

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KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Mega Gallery

11/30/2015 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was the big unveil at EICMA, for the Austrian company. The model builds off the well-recieved KTM 1290 Super Duke R streetfighter, and adds some more fairing, a windshield, as well as a set of panniers.

Despite its beastly title and aggressive looks, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is a surprisingly comfortable motorcycle to ride, thanks mostly to an upright riding triangle. The Super Duke R also has a large 4.7 gallon tank, which gives good range, but KTM boosted the Super Duke GT’s fuel tank to 6 gallons regardless of that fact.

If experience tell us anything, this should make for nice long excursions on the “Grand Tourer” model, which thankful doesn’t get a neutering to its 170hp 75° v-twin engine, which is the true highlight of the model.

The Super Duke R can get some vibrations from that beast of a motor though, so it will be interesting to see how the GT model handles that, otherwise we consider the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT to be a very sporty sport-tourer – one we’re eager to ride.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT will come to the USA for 2016 though, which is a shame. Hopefully KTM North America can figure that nonsense out tout suite. In the meantime, we have 50+ high-resolution photos of “The Touring Beast” for your viewing pleasure.

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2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

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