2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market. For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection. Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

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.

A Panigale-Powerd Ducati Monster Looks Really Good

12/07/2015 @ 12:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Monster-X

I’m not a fan of the Monster line from Ducati. There, I said it. There is just something about the Monster models over the years that has failed to strike me as appealing, though I must say the latest crop of liquid-cooled Monsters has certainly been a step forward for me, visually.

I’m more of a fan of the Ducati Streetfigther lineup, and I still hope that Ducati has a new Streetfighter design somewhere on its design boards. Ideally, such a machine would have a Superquadro engine at its heart, and accordingly make big horsepower numbers that rip our eyeballs from our sockets.

The fate of the Streetfighter line remains to be seen though, and with each passing model year I expect to see the Streetfighter 848 finally leave the Italian company’s lineup. It would seem the Streetfighter is kaput as of the 2016 model year. -JB

As such, the Monster line could be Ducati’s only naked bike model, any year now. So, if time is really against us, and if the Monster really is to be the only naked bike from Ducati, I hope the future iterations take a lesson from this concept.

Volkswagen XL Sport – A Ducati Superleggera Powered Car

10/01/2014 @ 6:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Volkswagen-XL-Sport-Ducati-1199-Superleggera-powered-car-09

Whoa, hold on…don’t worry, you’re still at the right site. Yes this is a car, and yes this is a site dedicated to motorcycles, but it will all make sense in a minute…or however long it takes you to read the headline of this story. Don’t worry…scroll up…we’ll wait.

Anyways, one of the perks for Audi AG’s acquisition of Ducati is that parent company Volkswagen can play around with interesting concepts that involve the compact, yet powerful, engines that come out of Borgo Panigale. One of those flights of fancy has manifested itself into a real-life concept, the Volkswagen XL Sport.

2014 Ducati 899 Panigale Breaks Cover

09/09/2013 @ 9:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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Confirming rumors that Borgo Panigale has been working on a smaller-displacement version of its namesake superbike, and that the machine would have a double-sided swingarm, Ducati debuted today its new “supermid” superbike, the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale.

Showcased ahead of the IAA International Motor Show, where Ducati will preview its 2014 motorcycle line, the Ducati 899 Panigale features an 898cc Superquadro motor that produces 148hp (73 lbs•ft of torque), a monocoque “frameless” chassis design (372.5 lbs dry), and a bevy of electronics (DQS, DTC, RbW, EBC, & ABS).

Priced at $14,995 (red model) & $15,295 (white model), Ducati hopes that the 899 Panigale will create a more affordable entry for motorcyclists that want to own a Ducati superbike.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

Ducati Corse Confirms Carlos Checa & Panigale RS13 in WSBK – Hints at Factory Team for 2013

10/29/2012 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.

Ducati Streetfighter Panigale Concept

07/09/2012 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

It remains to be seen how the high-reving Superquadro motor will fit into Ducati’s “one-motor-fits-all” strategy, but the speculation is already becoming rife about a supersport version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale, and of course a streetfighter version as well.

With the Panigale’s engine being an integral part of the superbike’s design, there is a definite challenge for Ducati’s design team in making the Emperor of the Sport Bike Kingdom look good naked. Until we see what Borgo Panigale can conjure up, we are lucky to have weekend couch jockey’s on the Ducati.ms forum who happen to have incredible photoshoping skills.

Are You the 2013 Ducati Hypermotard 848?

05/18/2012 @ 12:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

The Hypermotard series is growing long in the tooth, and while everyone expects the Ducati’s smaller Superbike to get revamped in 2013, here is some evidence to suggest that the big news at EICMA this year will be an all-new Hypermotard model. Expected to have a water-cooled motor, best guesses would have the new Hypermotard using the 849cc Testastretta power plant, which would dovetail nicely with the supersport-sized Superbike getting an ~800cc variant of the new Superquadro motor.

Call Your Mother Because Here is the Ultimate Ducati 1199 Panigale Photo Gallery

02/17/2012 @ 3:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati has been hogging the news the past few weeks, thanks in large part to the debut of the most important motorcycle the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has ever released. With Ducati up for sale and being valued at €1 billion, the Ducati 1199 Panigale sets the record straight that Bologna has not strayed from its sport bike and racing heritage with the release of bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel. With Ducati hosting the Panigale’s international press launch in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit (click here to let Ducati know that you wish A&R had been invited to this launch), the initial reports from the assembled press is that all the concerns about Ducati, its frameless chassis design, and its future can be laid to rest.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment…and we’ve got over 160 images of the Ducati 1199 Panigale waiting for you after the jump.

Cutaway Photos of the Ducati Superquadro Engine

01/31/2012 @ 7:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

I was flipping through some photos from the 2011 EICMA show, and found these shots of the Ducati 1199 Panigale‘s Superquadro engine. Unfortunately at the show, Ducati had its 1199cc v-twin motor behind a Lexan case, which created a bit of a glare, reflections, and of course had smudges from the touchy-feely Italian crowd. But still, the photos give a good idea of what’s going on in Ducati’s most-advanced production engine to date, and are better than just looking at the CAD renders (photos & movie).

If you look at the shots very closely, you can almost see where the 195hp and 98 lbs•ft of torque is lurking inside. Visible are the gear/chain-driven cams, which help aid the 15,000 mile service interval (and help avoid the almost yearly Ducati tax that came with the old motor design). Also visible is the new wet slipper clutch ride-by-wire system, which help complete the Superquadro’s departure from what we used to think of as iconic elements to Ducati’s twins. Photos after the jump.

The Ducati Superquadro Motor in 3D

01/04/2012 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

We seem to be on a kick lately with 3D renders of the underpinning parts of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. While we’ve already seen the Panigale’s “frameless” chassis detailed in computer renders, today we have a video Ducati’s Superquadro motor. Starting from an exploded point-of-view, the 195hp / 98 lbs•ft of torque v-twin motor re-assembles itself, showing how the most powerful engine from Ducati comes together for its final form.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, ride-by-wire throttle actuation, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike motor design. Add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, and ABS brakes as a standard equipment, and you’ve got one potent two-wheeled machine.