How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

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?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

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.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

2017 Ducati SuperSport – The Sport Bike Returns

10/04/2016 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS

2017-ducati-supersport-s-08

The Ducati SuperSport is back for the 2017 model year, bringing a street-focused sport bike into Ducati’s motorcycle lineup once again. As you would expect, the 2017 Ducati SuperSport will come in two models, the SuperSport base model and a higher-spec SuperSport S model.

Both bikes use the 937cc, water-cooled, 113hp v-twin engine that’s found in the Ducati Hypermotard 939. Ducati has also used a steel trellis frame for the SuperSport, which looks very similar to the one used on the current Monster line. Obviously, the front fairing takes some cues from the Panigale superbike.

Ducati’s focus is for the SuperSport to augment its street lineup with something sporty that could go on the race track, but would be more at home on twisty roads, even with a passenger on the back.

Ducati SuperSport Photos Leaked

10/03/2016 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler72 COMMENTS

2017-ducati-supersport-leak

The big reveal for Ducati, at INTERMOT, will be the Ducati SuperSport. Bologna already teased this machine at this year’s World Ducati Week gathering at Misano, giving hardcore Ducatisti a first look at the sporty street bike.

Naturally, photos of the machine promptly leaked from WDW2016, which coupled with eyewitness reports, means we have a pretty good idea what to expect in Cologne, Germany this week.

Because of all that, we can confirm that the following are indeed photos of the 2017 Ducati SuperSport, though we will obviously have to wait until tomorrow to see high-resolution images and tech specs released.

The Ducati SuperSport Gets Teased Ahead of INTERMOT

09/30/2016 @ 11:03 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

2017-ducati-supersport-teaser

The start of “New Bike Season” is nearly here, with various brands getting their teaser campaigns ready for next week’s INTERMOT show. One of the best in the business at this, Ducati is ready to unveil its long-awaited Ducati SuperSport model.

The rebirth of one of Ducati’s more popular models in the past, the 2017 Ducati SuperSport works on the same idea of making a sporty street bike, which is not only good for spirited weekend rides, but also capable of doing some short-distance touring.

As such, the SuperSport fits a narrow niche in Ducati’s lineup, somewhere between the Hyperstrada 939, the Monster 821, and the Panigale 959.

Ride Review: Yamaha FZ-10

08/02/2016 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

2017-Yamaha-FZ-10-Jensen-Beeler-08

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.

Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

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

ducati-800-supersport

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.

Wherefore Art Thou Yamaha FZ-10?

06/22/2016 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Yamaha-MT-10-Concept-AD-Koncept-03

The Yamaha MT-10 is coming to the USA as the Yamaha FZ-10. I was a bit put-off by the bike’s radical design when it debuted at EICMA last year, but if you listen to the latest episode of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you will see that I have been warming up to the machine, especially after seeing it in person in Los Angeles.

The Yamaha FZ-10 poses an interesting problem though, as it enters the domain of a very similar machine, the Yamaha FZ1, which has a very different, very cult following and core demographic.

The FZ1 is perhaps the last honest sport-tourer in the US market, and it enjoys a healthy loyalty from experienced riders who enjoy still riding fast, but require a little bit more in the ergonomics department than the current crop of sport bikes provide.

But, as much as the FZ-10 is the answer to the calls of FZ1 owners for an updated and modern version of their steed, this latest R1-derived street bike is probably more at home in the Michael Bay Transformers franchise, than it would be in the garage of current FZ-1 owner.

Burasca 1200 – Aldo Drudi’s Custom Honda VFR1200F

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

Burasca-1200-custom-Honda-VFR1200F-Aldo-Drudi-29

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.

Motus Expands Its Dealership Network

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

Motus-MST-red-salt-flats

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.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

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

Yamaha-Tracer-700-studio-06

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.

Gone Riding: 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

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

2016-Yamaha-FJR1300-static-66

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.